The first day of the early junior-college signing period started for Tennessee with a flurry of additions intended to address a few of its most glaring needs.
Four-star defensive lineman DaVonte Lambert of Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga., signed with Auburn on Wednesday.
It ended in disappointment.
Four-star defensive lineman DaVonte Lambert of Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga., who had been committed to the Vols for more than four months, announced Wednesday afternoon that he has decided to sign with Auburn, dealing a major blow to Tennessee’s 2014 recruiting class.
On Wednesday morning, the Vols signed three of their junior-college commitments: four-star receiver Lavon Pearson of Feather River College in Quincy, Calif., four-star offensive tackle Dontavius Blair of Garden City (Kan.) Community College and three-star defensive tackle Owen Williams of Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan.
But they weren’t able to fight off Auburn’s late push for Lambert, who announced his commitment to Tennessee on Aug. 13 and never showed any signs of wavering on his decision until the final weeks leading up to the start of the signing period.
The 6-foot-3, 278-pound Lambert — who plans to enroll at Auburn next month — is ranked the nation’s No. 6 junior-college player and No. 1 juco strongside defensive end in the 247Sports Composite, which equally weighs prospect rankings and ratings from major recruiting media outlets.
Lambert traveled to Auburn for its 34-28 win over then-No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 30, but he initially downplayed his interest in the Tigers coming off the visit.
Still, he continued to give them strong consideration over the past few weeks and ultimately hosted multiple coaches from both Auburn and Tennessee on in-home visits last week before the start of the ongoing dead period for recruiting.
A former standout at Burke County High School in Waynesboro, Ga., Lambert initially committed to the Vols after taking official visits to Tennessee, Florida and Auburn during the summer.
He was expected to earn immediate playing time — if not a starting job — on the Vols’ defensive line, where Tennessee is looking to replace all four of its starters from this season.
Lambert recorded 36 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, eight sacks and a pair of forced fumbles this year for Georgia Military, which went 11-0 during the regular season and played for the National Junior College Athletic Association championship Dec. 8 in the Mississippi Bowl in Biloxi, Miss.