KNOXVILLE — Tennessee picked up the 14th commitment for its 2014 football recruiting class Thursday.
And though there are 250 days until signing day, the Volunteers and first-year coach Butch Jones currently are No. 1 in Rivals.com's team rankings.
Defensive end Joe Henderson, from Shaker Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio, publicly announced his commitment less than two weeks after visiting Tennessee. The 6-foot-4, 222-pounder is rated as a four-star prospect according to 247sports.com.
Henderson, the first defensive lineman in the Vols' class, had scholarship offers also from Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Louisville, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan State, among others.
"He's going to probably make his name as an edge rusher," Josh Helmholdt, Rivals' analyst for the Midwest, told the Times Free Press. "His strength is his speed off the edge -- getting into the backfield, getting to the quarterback and putting pressure on the pocket. It still remains to be seen if he's a three-down defensive end.
"He measured in last month at 6-foot-4, 222, so he'll definitely have to put on a good 30 or 40 pounds. How does that change the dynamic of his game? All those are questions, but I think the frame is there to do it. I like his frame. He's got a lot of room there to be able to add the strength and add the weight, so I do ultimately believe he will be a three-down defensive end, but his forte is certainly going to be rushing the passer."
A three-star prospect according to Rivals, Scout and ESPN, Henderson won the MVP award for defensive lineman at the Rivals Camp in Pittsburgh last month with his explosiveness against one of the best and biggest groups of offensive linemen Helmholdt said he's seen at a regional camp.
After adding two players from Ohio at the end of the 2013 cycle, the Vols have two nonbinding verbal commitments from Ohio prospects, in addition to one player from Illinois, as Jones and his staff take advantage of where they've coached and recruited in the past.
Tennessee also has commitments from prospects in Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland and has four in-state players on the commitment list.
"Ohio is closer than many Southeastern states for them, and it is anywhere from the fourth- to the sixth-most talent-rich state in the country, so it's a big talent pool there," Helmholdt said. "No doubt, to recruit well at Tennessee, you have to recruit the Southeast, and he's shown the ability to do that. ... But he's gone back to some of his roots and some of his schools and territories that he was successful at when he coached for Cincinnati and when he coached at Central Michigan."
Tennessee's total of 14 commitments is tied with Louisville for most in the country, and though the quantity helps the Vols in the recruiting sites' respective rankings formulas, Tennessee does have pledges from one five-star and three four-stars per 247sports, which ranks the Vols second nationally and first in the SEC, and five four-stars according to Rivals.
"They're one of the hardest-working staffs on the trail right now," Helmholdt said. "They're just putting in a lot of work and it's paying off for [Jones]. It's not something they've just lucked into.
"They've put the work in, and it's paying the dividends."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...