This week, we’re going to take an updated look at Tennessee’s recruiting board. Right before the season, we looked at which prospects had recently decided their college future before their senior season began, and which prospects were just starting to narrow down their choices.
Generally, this time of year is more slow on the recruiting front as far as actual commitments go. Players are taking visits all over the country and seeing where they feel they could fit in. Add that on with the fact that many prospects are leaders of their teams and are trying to make their last seasons memorable, and you’ve got a pretty hectic time for a high school senior. But since we’re at the halfway point of the season, let’s look at which prospects have faded off, and what new prospects the Vols are hoping to add:
Commits Since Last Update:
The Vols haven’t added any commits since the beginning of the season update. However, one of their previous targets did make his commitment. 5* (LB) Sav’ell Smalls decided to stay home in his home state of Washington and play for the Huskies.
In this update, I’m going to divide the targets into three categories for easier reading: Guys that we’re feeling good about landing, guys that we’re right in the hunt for, and guys that are seen as long shots at this point.
We’re Feeling Good About:
- 4* (DE) Tyler Baron – Baron is one of the top defensive ends in this class, and the Vols should know firsthand. At Knoxville Catholic, Baron has been dominating offenses for the last couple of years. Baron also recently released his top-5 schools with Tennessee, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Kentucky included. The Vols seem to be in a great spot to land Baron at the moment. However, this recruitment will likely go to the end, as Baron has preferred to go through the process more slowly and thoughtfully.
- 4* (DE) Jay Hardy – At 285 lbs, Hardy is more of your prototypical SEC defensive end. And when you look at his top schools, it’s SEC heavy. Hardy recently released his top-5 of Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech. With him being an in-state kid, you have to like the Vols chances. Recently, it seems as though the Vols have been trending in the right direction. However, this recruitment could go on for a while.
- 4* (OL/DL) Omari Thomas – Thomas is one of the Vols top targets mainly for his ability to play both lines. The top-6 for the Memphis native includes Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Auburn, and Alabama. Watch for Tennessee here, but Arkansas and Ole Miss will be tough to beat. Thomas could announce his decision at the Army All-American bowl in January.
- 5* (WR/TE) Arik Gilbert – Since the last update, the Vols added Gilbert’s teammate BJ Ojulari. Now, with both Ojulari and Vol commit Harrison Bailey in Gilbert’s ear everyday at Marietta High School, there’s an even better chance at landing the talented top-10 prospect. Georgia and Alabama remain heavily in the picture, but you have to like the situation Tennessee has created around him in this recruiting process.
- 4* (OL) Chris Morris – The Memphis native has apparently already decided where he will play and could announce at any time really. Tennessee and Texas A&M are thought to be the two top choices here. Morris has already taken an OV to Knoxville but also plans to visit Texas A&M, Oregon, Ohio State, and Alabama. Wherever he goes, expect Morris to be one of the top players in that class.
- 4* (LB) Bryson Eason – A new addition to the board, Eason is a standout linebacker at Whitehaven High School. Tennessee has been in the discussion here for a while, but more traction has been gained recently. He and two of his teammates, who we’ll mention later on, make up the “Whitehaven Trio” at linebacker. You have to wonder if these guys have seen the need at the position for the Vols, and want to come in and compete for playing time.
We’re Right In The Hunt For:
- 4* (LB) Martavius French – Eason’s teammate and LB partner, French has been committed to Arkansas since July. However, as the Vols have focused more on the linebacker position as of late, French’s name has come up more and more. We know Jeremy Pruitt and his staff are going to sell the idea of this trio all reuniting in Knoxville. If Eason jumps on board, look for him to recruit hard.
- 3* (LB) Tamarion McDonald – The third mentioned member of the trio, McDonald has been committed to Mississippi State since May. However, the Vols only just recently offered him. Same thing applies here, if one of his teammates hops on board, the Vols chances rise by a good amount.
- 5* (TE) Darnell Washington – At 6’7″ 260lbs, Washington is a huge (literally) prospect in this class. He has a Top 3 of Georgia, Miami, and Tennessee. Alabama was surprisingly left out, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet. This seems to be another case of a Georgia vs Tennessee battle that could play out for a while, but honestly, it could change several more times before he decides. He likes the Vols though, and Brian Niedermeyer has been recruiting him hard.
- 5* (DE) Reggie Grimes – The state’s top ranked player could play either DE or OLB in Tennessee’s system. The Alabama legacy announced that he would be committing in late November and it could go several different ways. His top-6 includes Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida State, LSU, and Vanderbilt. Alabama will obviously be tough to beat, but South Carolina could be a sleeper here as well. Either way this one won’t be easy for the Vols.
- 4* (ILB) Len’Neth Whitehead – The Vols have become a major player for the linebacker out of Georgia here recently. His top-7 includes Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin. Georgia, Texas, and SC are the main competition here, but the Vols seem to be in a good spot.
The Long Shots:
- 5* (WR) Rakim Jarrett – Even though he is currently committed to LSU, Jarrett has been linked to the Vols for a while now. Right before his commitment, it even seemed that the Vols may have been in front. Virtually every school in the country wants the speedy receiver, with the main competition being Maryland and Ohio State. This recruitment could be one of the few every year that goes down to the wire. The Vols have connections here, but seem to have faded off lately.
- 5* (OLB) Noah Sewell – Most of the competition here will come from Alabama, Florida, Oregon, and Ohio State. The Vols were trending for a while, but we haven’t heard any updates here lately. Probably not a great sign as of right now.
While the season certainly didn’t get off to the start that we all wanted, a win over Mississippi State this past week has rejuvenated much of the fan base. A bowl game is now a possibility. It’ll take a 4-2 finish to the season to make it happen, but with the way we’ve played the last two weeks, it could happen. Vandy looks rough, UAB is a well coached team, but I doubt the Vols slip up twice in one season, and Kentucky is playing a receiver at QB. If you can win those three, then you just need a win against SCjr, Mizzou, or Alabama (gulp).
After the way this season started, a bowl game would be absolutely huge. Especially since it seems like this team is improving every week, and fifteen extra bowl prep practices can only help with that. After all, a bowl game was what everyone wanted before the season anyway. It’s still going to take work, but a bowl game would really help with all of these recruits as they watch our rebuild take place. We’ll take another updated look at this board at the end of the season. Hopefully, momentum will be wearing Pantone 151 at that time.
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