KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – While Josh Heupel prepares the Volunteers for next week’s Orange Bowl, the next generation of Tennessee stars are officially putting pen to paper Wednesday as the early signing period begins.
While the three-day early signing day precedes the traditional national signing day on Feb. 1, many major recruits are ready to sign on the dotted line and begin their collegiate careers. Some 2023 signees have already joined the team for bowl practice.
Editor’s Note: This story will be updated periodically with live coverage and updates from the WATE 6 On Your Side Sports Team.
Nico Iamaleava (QB)
Tennessee’s 2023 class is headlined by this standout five-star prospect, who first announced his commitment in March. The Long Beach, California native was ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in the nation behind Arch Manning, nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning, by Rivals.com. He was also rated No. 3 overall by 247Sports and On3. considered him the No. 10 prospect overall.
According to 247Sports, Iamaleava is the fifth-highest rated prospect to commit to Tennessee in program history. ESPN said that he is the highest-ranked quarterback to come to Tennessee since they started their rankings in 2006.
The 6’6″ Iamaleava (pronounced Ee-uh-mah-LAY-AH-va) was also a standout volleyball player. He’s already joined Tennessee at bowl practice as an early enrollee.
Daevin Hobbs (DL)
Tabbed as the No. 1 prospect from the state of North Carolina by 247Sports and Rivals.com, Hobbs announced his commitment to Tennessee last month and will arrive on Rocky Top in January ahead of spring practices. Both On3.com and 247Sports rated him a five-star prospect and the No. 3 defensive lineman in the country. He was also a standout on the basketball court, helping Jay M. Robinson High School in Concord to the 2021 Class 2A state championship.
Arion Carter (LB)
The star linebacker from Smyrna announced his commitment to the Vols last week. Carter is a consensus five-star prospect and was named the 2022 6A Mr. Football winner. He is considered one of the top linebacker prospects in the nation. Carter is rated as the No. 1 prospect in Tennessee by Rivals and No. 2 according to the On3 Consensus and 247Sports Composite industry-generated rankings. He also lettered in basketball and qualified for the state track & field meet in the 300-meter hurdles.
Caleb Herring (DL)
While Rivals considers the aforementioned Carter as the top prospect in Tennessee, Herring tops the rankings from On3, 247Sports and the 247Sports Composite rankings. He’s considered a top-15 edge rusher in the 2022 class by all major recruiting outlets and rated as high as No. 5 by Rivals. He will join his brother, Elijah, a linebacker who just finished his freshman season for the Vos. Herring also enrolled at Tennessee early and is participating in bowl practices.
Cameron Seldon (WR)
This consensus four-star prospect is considered the top player in the state of Virginia by 247Sports, which also rated him as No. 28 ranked player in the country. Seldon is an elite athlete with state championships in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash (twice), and the 4×100 relay. He also played basketball in high school and chose Tennessee over 12 Power Five offers. He will arrive in Knoxville in January and go through spring practices.
Trevor Duncan (DL)
Knoxville Catholic High School’s Trevor Duncan officially put pen to paper on Wednesday as the early signing period got underway. Duncan is considered a consensus three-star prospect by all major recruiting services and rated the No. 13 player in the state by On3 and ESPN. His father, Casey, played college football at Memphis and Murray State and his brother, Cody, just wrapped up his third season as a walk-on tight end at Virginia Tech.
DeSean Bishop (RB)
This Knoxville area prospect was a late but welcome addition to Tennessee’s 2023 class when he announced his commitment on Wednesday. The standout running back from Karns High School was named the Tennessee 5A Mr. Football Award winner in 2021 and 2022, rushing for over 5,500 yards and 60 touchdowns over his final two years. He recently de-committed from Coastal Carolina after their coach, Jamey Chadwell, was hired by Liberty University.
Nathan Leacock (WR)
Both the 247Sports Composite rankings and the On3 Consensus rankings slotted the 6’3″ wideout as the No. 3 overall prospect from North Carolina. The consensus four-star prospect set recorded a school-record 1,703 receiving yards and 23 receiving touchdowns his senior year at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, where he also helped the track & field team to a state championship. Leacock committed to Tennessee in July and has already arrived on campus to participate in bowl practices.
Chandavian Bradley (DL)
This consensus four-star recruit is rated as a top 120 player by all major recruiting services and as high as the No. 59 overall player in the country by ESPN. He contributed on both sides of the ball at Platte County High School in Missouri, where he also played basketball and ran track. He committed to Tennessee in July after receiving 31 offers from Power Five programs.
Ethan Davis (TE)
The Atlanta native is one of the top tight end prospects in the country. On3 had Davis as the No. 3 tight end prospect in the country and Rivals tabbed him as the No. 4 prospect overall in the state of Georgia. Before turning his focus to the gridiron, he was a highly-touted basketball recruit with multiple offers from Power Six programs. UTSports.com said Davis has added significant size while rehabbing from an injury that cost him his senior season.
Tyree Weathersby (DL)
The latest in a long line of signees from Georgia, Weathersby is rated a four-star prospect by On3 and the 247Sports Composite rankings. On3 scored him as the No. 11 player from Georgia and the No. 128 overall player in the country. He committed to the Vols in July 2022 after receiving 22 Division I offers, including 13 from Power Five programs.
Larry Johnson III (OL)
This 6’7″, 365-pound offensive lineman joins Tennessee as a junior college transfer from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where former UT standout Alvin Kamara also played before transferring to Rocky Top. The 247Sports Composite rankings tabbed him as the No. 2 JUCO offensive tackle prospect in the nation. He has three years of eligibility remaining and arrived on campus in December to participate in bowl practices.
Jalen Smith (LB)
Rivals has tabbed Smith as a four-star prospect and the No. 15 linebacker in the nation. He is rated a three-star player by 247Sports, ESPN and On3. He won the Georgia All Region 4-7A Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior and chose Tennessee over 25 Power Five offers. Smith also ran track in high school.
Nathan Robinson (DL)
Another in-state signing, Robinson hails from Greenbrier High School just north of Nashville. He’s rated a three-star recruit by all major recruiting services. 47Sports Composite rankings, Rivals and On3 all rated him the No. 15 player in Tennessee. Robinson also competed in several track and field competitions including shot put discus, 110-meter hurdles and the 4×100 relay.
Ayden Bussell (OL)
All major recruiting services rated Bussell as a three-star prospect. According to UTSports.com, he did not allow a single sack in the past three seasons at Mount Juliet High School. The 247Sports Composite rankings tabbed him as the No. 56 offensive tackle prospect in the country. He also was high school track and field athlete and committed to Tennessee in January.
Vysen Lang (OL)
The offensive line prospect from Pike Road, Alabama chose Tennessee over 25 other Division I offers, including 10 SEC programs. Lang is a consensus three-star prospect rated the No. 23 player from Alabama and No. 34 overall interior offensive lineman in the nation by 247Sports. He has arrived in Knoxville in December and is also participating in bowl practices.
Jack Luttrell (DB)
This consensus three-star prospect from Gainesville, Georgia chose Tennessee over six other offers from Power Five programs. Luttrell is rated the No. 62 player in the state of Georgia by Rivals and is already participating in practice with Tennessee. He was also an all-regional selection soccer player.
Jeremiah Telander (LB)
Another Tennessee recruit from Gainesville, Georgia, ESPN tabbed Telander as four-star prospect and the No. 16 linebacker prospect in the country. All other major recruiting services rated him as a high-end three-star recruit. He was also a standout track & field athlete and played basketball in high school. He is already participating in bowl practices and spurned 18 other Power Five offers to sign with Tennessee.
Shamurad Umarov (OL)
Umarov is racked up 30 D1 offers, including 23 from Power Five schools, after a distinguished career at Denmark High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. The 247Composite rankings slotted him in as a four-star recruit and No. 9 overall prospect in the state of Georgia. He was also a shot putter in high school and has already joined the team for bowl practices this month.
Cristian Conyer (DB)
All major recruiting services classed Conyer as a top 10 player in the state of Kentucky, including a No. 1 overall ranking from Rivals. He is projected to play in the secondary at Tennessee after contributing on both sides of the ball at the high school level. The 247Sports Composite rankings put him at the No. 53 overall cornerback prospect in the country. He was a decorated high school sprinter and has also joined up with the Vols for bowl practices this month.
Jordan Matthews (DB)
A consensus four-star prospect and top-10 player in the state of Louisiana, Matthew chose the Vols over major programs like LSU, Texas and Michigan. Rivals evaluated him as the No. 16 cornerback prospect nationally and the No. 122 player overall. He was a standout sprinter in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash and had a total of eight offers from SEC schools. He is involved in bowl practices.
John Slaughter (DB)
A consensus three-star prospect, Slaughter was named the 2022 Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches. On3 classified him as the No. 39 safety prospect of the 2022 class. He garnered five Power Five offers before committing and has arrived on Rocky Top this month for bowl practices.
Rickey Gibson III (DB)
Rated a four-star prospect by On3, Rivals and the 247Sports Composite rankings, Gibson is classed as a top-25 player from the state of Alabama by all major recruiting services. He slotted in as the No. 19 cornerback prospect in the nation in On3’s rankings. He chose Tennessee over 31 other offers and already participating in bowl practices.
Andrej Karic (OL)
Karic entered the transfer portal after three years at Texas and joins Tennessee with three years of eligibility remaining. He appeared in 26 games with the Longhorns, including 5 starts and appearances in their last 23 games. Karic was rated as the No. 17 offensive tackle in the class of 2020 by 247Sports.
Khalifa Keith (RB)
This consensus three-star prospect committed to Tennessee in November over 23 D1 offers, including six Power Five programs. Rivals appraised him as the No. 27 running back prospect in the nation. ESPN put him as the No. 25 overall prospect from the state of Alabama.
Nate Spillman (WR)
Under the tutelage of former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, Spillman helped Lipscomb Academy in Nashville to back-to-back Tennessee Division II-AA State Championships. He is a rated a consensus three-star prospect and the No. 28 player in the state by Rivals.
McCallan Castles (TE)
The graduate transfer joins Tennessee from UC Davis after two-straight All-Big Sky second team selections. He was a consensus four-star prospect out of high school rated as the 10th-best tight end in the 2018 class by ESPN. He has joined up with the Vols for bowl practices this month.
Keenan Pili (LB)
Tennessee bolstered their linebacker group this graduate transfer from BYU. Pilli was a two-time team captain for the Cougars and tied for second on the team in tackles last season. He helped BYU to 11-wins in 2020 and was named the defensive MVP of the Boca Raton Bowl in a win over UCF.
Max Gilbert (PK)
A longtime soccer player who started playing football his freshman year at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Gilbert is rated by Kohl’s Kicking as a five-star prospect and the No. 30 placekicker in the nation. Kohl’s Kicking also rated him a four-star punting prospect. He was one of three finalists for the 2022 Tennessee Mr. Football High School Kicker of the Year. Gilbert has arrived on Rocky Top for bowl practices.
Charles Campbell (PK)
Campbell left Indiana as a graduate transfer and now returns to his home state. He converted the second most field goals of 50 or more yards in Indiana history and set an Outback Bowl record for the longest made field goal (53) last year. He made the longest field goals in previous two seasons of Big Ten play and has a career long of 55 yards. He was a 2017 Tennessee Mr. Football finalist in 2017 at the University School of Jackson.