Knockout blow in Knoxville
QB Tyler Bray is still a Vol, but most of Lane Kiffin's recruits are exploring other options
It's been a crazy 17 hours or so since former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin took the Southern California job, carrying defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and ace recruiter Ed Orgeron off with him. Here's a look at the high school prospects in the Tennessee class before those departures -- it was the No. 6 ranked recruiting class as of two days ago -- and how things stand right now with each.
WR Markeith Ambles (McDonough, Ga./Henry County)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: 23 | WR rank: 4
Ambles told Scouts Inc.'s Gerry Hamilton on Wednesday that he spoke with Kiffin on Tuesday night and plans to speak with the coach again. He is in a holding pattern until then. If Kiffin elects to pursue the talented wideout, don't be surprised if he ends up in Los Angeles.
QB Tyler Bray (Kingsburg, Calif./Kingsburg)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: 135 | QB rank: 6
Bray participated in December bowl practices with the Vols, and while he is bound by NCAA transfer rules should he decide to head elsewhere, he has no plans to leave Tennessee, his dad told the Fresno Bee. Although the QB initially was shaken by the news of Kiffin's departure, Jeff Bray told the paper, "By the time we got there, Tyler had calmed down. I told him the decision was up to him, and he said he wanted to stay."
DE J.C. Copeland (LaGrange, Ga./Troup County)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | DE rank: 30
Copeland is scheduled to take an official visit to Tennessee this coming weekend and says that as long as the visit is still on from UT's standpoint, he definitely will be taking it. He also said Tuesday night that he plans to take additional visits before national signing day and that Auburn has been talking more to him recently.
S Ahmad Dixon (Waco, Texas/Midway)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: 15 | S rank: 3
Dixon told Hamilton on Wednesday afternoon that he would categorize his recruitment as being in a "state of limbo" and that he's waiting to talk to Kiffin about USC. If Dixon ends up in Los Angeles, it will be the fourth school he has committed to (Texas, Baylor and Tennessee are the others).
ATH Marcques Dixon (Atlanta/Southwest DeKalb)
Stars: 2 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | ATH rank: 222
Dixon plans to take visits to Miami and Southern Mississippi later this month but remains committed to Tennessee.
OG Zach Fulton (Flossmoor, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor)
Stars: 2 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | ATH rank: 92
Fulton's father told the Knoxville News-Sentinel that he and his family were taking a wait-and-see approach to the coaching situation.
RB Channing Fugate (Jackson, Ky./Breathitt County)
Stars: 3 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | RB rank: 40
Fugate participated in December bowl practices with the Vols and is bound by NCAA transfer rules should he decide to head elsewhere.
OT Ja'Wuan James (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: 24 | OT rank: 2
James was one of several players on the cusp of starting class at UT. According to North Gwinnett high school coach Bob Sphire, James and his mother were set to meet with Tennessee officials Wednesday afternoon, so his status is up in the air. Sphire was traveling back from a National Football Coaches Association convention in Orlando, Fla., and had not talked with James one-on-one yet.
DE Delvin Jones (Miami/Palmetto)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | DE rank: 25
Jones decommitted from the Vols and said Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin and Orgeron were the main reasons he committed to Tennessee to start with. He says Ole Miss (visit Jan. 22), Alabama, Arkansas and Nebraska are four schools he is considering. Watch out for the Rebels here.
WR Ted Meline (North Miami, Fla./North Miami)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | WR rank: 29
Meline was one of the prospects set to enroll early at Tennessee. As of Wednesday afternoon, he had not attended a class, so he is still free to go wherever. A source close to his situation categorized Meline as being "undecided" about his future at this time.
DE Corey Miller (Duncan, S.C./James F. Byrnes)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: 51 | DE rank: 4
WR Matt Milton
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150: NR | WR: 32
Milton participated in December bowl practices with the Vols and is bound by NCAA transfer rules should he decide to head elsewhere.
OT Marquis Pair (Sumter, S.C./Sumter)
Stars: 3 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | OT rank: 91
Pair's only Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer was from Tennessee, and he's expected to stick with his commitment.
K Michael Palardy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas)
Stars: 3 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | K rank: 15
There is no word about his status. He picked up a Florida offer last month, so that could be an option if he backs out at Tennessee.
DE Jacques Smith (Ooletwah, Tenn./Ooletwah)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | DE rank: 27
Smith is the lone in-state prospect in this class. It is not known what his plans are, but according to sources, LSU wants him and is going to pursue him while the Vols are without a coach. Those same sources indicate Smith has made contact with the Tigers. Smith told the Knoxville News-Sentinel that he was going to talk things over with his grandmother.
DT Calvin Smith (Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: NR | DT rank: 20
Smith's father said Wednesday that his son probably would publicly decommit from Tennessee. Florida State, New Mexico and Illinois were three programs that were in the mix prior to his commitment to the Vols. Also, don't count out Miami.
LB Michael Taylor (Atlanta/Westlake)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: 123 | OLB rank: 12
The bone-crunching linebacker and MVP of the White team at the Under Armour All-America Game decommitted from the Vols on Tuesday night after hearing the news. There was talk he had committed to Florida and that is very likely his destination, but he told Scouts Inc.'s Billy Tucker he had not committed anywhere.
OLB Ralph Williams (Miami/Southridge)
Stars: NA | ESPNU 150 rank: NA | OLB rank: NA
Williams was contemplating looking around at Virginia and some other programs before Kiffin's departure. We could see opposing programs stepping up their pursuit with the most recent developments.
DT Brandon Willis (Duncan, S.C./James F. Byrnes)
Stars: 4 | ESPNU 150 rank: 110 | DT rank: 9
Willis was hours from heading to Knoxville when the story of Kiffin's departure broke. He immediately decommitted and was critical of the outgoing Tennessee staff for trying to recruit him to USC. Willis then committed to North Carolina on Wednesday.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gerry Hamilton contributed to this report.
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