Posted: 11:33 p.m. Sunday, July 14, 2013
By Brad Shepard
With the University of Tennessee attempting to re-outfit essentially its entire receiving corps with SEC-caliber players, the opportunity is wide-open to play immediately.
Junior college standout Eric Lauderdale saw that opportunity and decided to commit to the Vols on Sunday night, effectively ending his recruitment and giving Tennessee yet another major commitment in Butch Jones' first full class. One of the top JUCO players in the country who currently plays at Saddleback College was being shown a ton of attention by UT and reciprocated the interest with a verbal pledge.
UT needs the 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete to line up on the outside and be a downfield threat in the future. With plenty of slot receivers in the fold, Lauderdale should join MarQuez North as outside receivers in offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian's scheme.
Lauderdale chose the Vols over Miami, Arizona State, Arkansas and several other offers. He is the 19th known commitment in the Vols' 2014 class and is one of many players in that class who could line up at receiver. He joins JUCO WR Kameel Jackson -- a former freshman starter at Oklahoma, Brandon Powell, Vic Wharton and Neiko Creamer as players in next year's class who could play receiver. Creamer probably projects to defense, and Wharton could be a cornerback as well.
As for Lauderdale, there's no doubt what position he'll play in college. He's a receiver all the way and a major priority for Zach Azzanni and the UT coaching staff. By this time next year, the Vols' entire receiving corps will be full of new faces. MarQuez North, Ryan Jenkins, Josh Smith, Paul Harris and Johnathan Johnson will all suit up as new Vols this season, so it is obvious that new coach Butch Jones was not pleased with what he saw from his receiving corps upon taking the job at UT.
Lauderdale, quite simply, is a kid who can come in immediately and play a lot. He has the size and speed combination that you look for in a receiver and is versatile enough to play any of the receiver positions. While I'd say Station Camp rising senior Josh Malone is UT's top target at the position, it's safe to say Lauderdale was next on the list. The only other receiver I could see the Vols taking right now besides those two is Dominique Booth, who is a consensus four-star player as well.
Lauderdale is rated the No. 3 JUCO receiver in the nation in the 247 Composite, which takes an average of the four major services. 247Sports believes he's the nation's fourth-ranked JUCO receiver, and Scout thinks he's the top JUCO WR in the country. He boasts a 4.45 40-yard dash and is a potential NFL talent who is a major coup for UT at this point. He is originally from Fayette County High School just outside Atlanta, but he likely won't be a mid-term guy, which is always a bit of a bummer for JUCO kids. That's a key reason why some of the top teams haven't offered, according to recruiting experts.
This commitment moves the Vols into the No. 1 spot on Rivals. UT moves two spots to fifth in the 247Sports rankings but fourth in the SEC behind Alabama (first), Florida State (second), Georgia (third) and Texas A&M; (fourth). Lauderdale's commitment begins what could be a big week for UT, which is set to host "Foundation Day" -- Tennessee's one-day camp that will feature many of the team's commitments along with prospects who are major targets [think UT's answer to Georgia's "Dawg Night" and Florida's "Friday Night Lights"]. That is set for next Sunday and the Vols are hoping for a couple commitments out of the day.
But today is Lauderdale's day. Welcome to Big Orange Country!