8 Days a Week: State of Play as Things Begin to Focus

With 8 days to National Signing Day, there is a still a TON up in the air to determine how Tennessee and new coach Jeremy Pruitt will finish off its inaugural signing class.  As we recently discussed, the Vols had started to consolidate its board not too long ago, but as expected new names have been added and old names have been removed (some on the part of UT, some on the part of the respective recruit).  Although how many total players the Vols can take in this class is not entirely clear, and the number of ways this class could ultimately look like is nearly infinite, what is for sure is that Pruitt and his staff have set themselves to close very strong one way or another.

Quick Weekend Recap

This past weekend Tennessee hosted five official visitors and one interesting unofficial visitor.  Official visitors included American Heritage High teammates from down in Florida CB Tyson Campbell and NG prospect (and Miami commit) Nesta Silvera; Auburn NG commitment Coynis Miller; fast-rising CB Taiyvon Palmer; and NG Otito Ogbonnia.  The unofficial visitor was CB Brandon Davis from River Ridge, LA.

In what can only be a good sign for the kind of prospect Pruitt and Co. are chasing, once again there were tons of Vol targets in Tuscaloosa, including TE Glenn Beal (Brandon Davis’ teammate); WR Jacob Copeland, and DBs Eddie Smith, Olaijah Griffin, and Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

Other major Vol targets visiting elsewhere included (but were not limited to):

DL John Mincey, OL Dylan Wonnum, and WR Warren Thompson were in South Carolina

LB Quay Walker was at Auburn

Notre Dame hosted C’Bo Flemister

Texas A&M hosted Jashaun Corbin

Big Week (and Weekend) Ahead

With the penultimate official visit weekend in the books and the Dead Period set to begin Sunday, Pruitt and the staff will be working overtime to set themselves up to be able to fill their remaining spots with the best players possible all the while trying to fill as many needs as they can.  The entire staff will be spread out across the country making their last inhome visits and then will reconvene in Knoxville for one final official visit weekend. Below is a look at the remaining board by position with a quick update on where the Vols stand:

OL

I give Pruitt and Friend credit for not taking reaches at the OL spot despite clearly needing more depth here.

With Ryan Winkel having decided against a blueshirt offer to Tennessee in favor of Arkansas, Dylan Wonnum is the lone remaining OL target. An absolute take if the Vols could land him, Wonnum is a South Carolina legacy (his brother is an emerging star on the DL) who is fresh off an OV to Columbia.  Interestingly, while he considered a strong Gamecock lean he has not publicly committed.  Pruitt still has his inhome available, so if he takes it that will make it clear that Wonnum is still strongly considering Tennessee and if not then vice versa.  Chances here are still slim, but Wonnum is good enough to spend the time chasing

RB/WR

I’ve combined these two positions because it seems like there is likely only one spot between them. The Vols would absolutely like another bigtime playmaker, but with the needs elsewhere and an unfortunate gap between those who they would take and those who are truly interested at this point, they may not add anyone else:

RB C’Bo Flemister is fresh off a really good visit to Notre Dame, and while Tennessee has slow played him the Irish have made him an absolute priority.  On the other hand, former FSU commitment and once (and future?) UT commitment RB Jashaun Corbin is getting plenty of attention from the Vols.  He’s got a final three of TCU, Tennessee, and Texas A&M, and while he is coming off a really good visit to College Station Aggies coaches are very worried about UT and his upcoming OV (not to mention Pruitt having been in his house on Monday night).  With Anthony Grant still shaky (although Pruitt can use an inhome visit if he chooses), and without a doubt a less explosive player on offense than Corbin, it seems like the staff is putting the press on the South Florida star.  This weekend will be big here.

Corbin’s cousin WR Antoine Green is a prospect the former staff absolutely loved and was deep in the mix for.  He’s also a player who has seen his recruiting profile heat up significantly in the Late Period, with UGA, OSU, FSU (where he was once committed) and UNC hot on his trail.  Volquest.com  has consistently reported that Green is perhaps the 1B to Jacob Copeland on Tennessee’s WR board as well.  He’s been scheduled to visit Knoxville this weekend but that one is absolutely up in the air.  One would think that the staff, including Pruitt, would have tried to get inhome with Green while they were down in the area with Corbin and of course be trying to sell the package deal, but there has been no public confirmation of that, so his thinking is a bit of a mystery.  What is well known is that he is a Tar Heel lean at the moment – in fact, there was a report that he was back in Chapel Hill last weekend on unofficial visit.

WR Jacob Copeland rounds out the top of the RB/WR board, and with Alabama perhaps running out of room this looks to be a Tennessee/Florida battle for the former UF commitment.  Copeland took his Tennessee OV 6 weeks ago and that looks like it might have been a miscalculation on Pruitt’ss part given the fact that his prior relationship with the star pass catcher meant he didn’t have to play as much catch up as he did with someone like fellow December official visitor CB Olaijah Griffin.  However, Pruitt does still have his inhome available and will use it this week before Copeland official visits Gainesville.  Pruitt without a doubt will sell Copeland on being the stud WR in his initial class as well as playing the relationship card strongly.

Three other WR prospect who officially visited Knoxville in January – Geordon Porter, Tre’shaun Harrison, Warren Thompson – all appear to have faded by the wayside.  Porter looks very likely to stay on the West Coast after taking an unofficial visit to UCLA this past weekend, while both Harrison and Thompson still claim to have Tennessee in their respective Top 3s but are equally unlikely to sign with the Vols.  Harrison is a FSU/Oregon battle while Thompson – who the Vols would still love to have – seems down to FSU and South Carolina.  It wouldn’t shock me to see both sign with the Seminoles

TE

The Vols don’t “need” another TE, but Glenn Beal is a good enough talent to take if you can get him.  In fact, both Alabama and LSU are recruiting him as a DL (not his preference for now) and some analysts have suggested he could be an NFL OL.  He took an official visit to Alabama this past weekend after visits to Texas A&M and Ole Miss that followed a trip to Knoxville.  LSU is lurking here and if they have room (not a big chance) Beal would likely jump on a hometown offer from the Tigers.  But as it stands, the Vols are real players here and might end up being the last man standing as he doesn’t appear to be a priority for the Tide, A&M might run out of room, and Ole Miss is not as attractive as Tennessee.  The recent commitment of his teammate Brandon Davis (below) certainly helps Tennessee’s cause here.  That said, Beal will probably be a Signing Day surprise for someone

DL

With longtime targets Malik Langham and Coynis Miller and no longer options and new offer Jordan Miller committing to Miami on Monday night, the DL board has certainly thinned quite a bit.  At this point there are really only three real targets in DE John Mincey and NG prospects Otito Ogbonnia and Nesta Silvera (a Miami commitment).  With Silvera a longshot despite what by all accounts was a good official visit this past weekend (and admittedly his silence post-visit doesn’t give one a ton of confidence either way) it would be fair to say that it’s just Mincey and Ogbonnia on the board.  Mincey appears down to Tennessee and South Carolina and is fresh off two really good visits to his respective finalists.  Pruitt still has his inhome visit this week (unclear if Muschamp has used his) and while both sides seem to have some confidence they each also have a potential numbers crunch to deal with, so this one could get dicey either way.  Ogbonnia is a true NG prospect who also excels at the shot put and would like to play both sports in college.  He’s an extremely sharp young man who had a great visit to Knoxville this past weekend, and has the kind of strength that could possibly allow him to play immediately at Tennessee.  He’ll visit Nebraska this weekend and then decide between the Vols, Huskers, and UCLA with Texas Tech (where two of his siblings attend) also somewhat in the mix.

LB

The one, the only, the quixotic Quay Walker is the sole LB Tennessee is chasing.  No one will tell you anything definitive about this recruitment, but since his official visit to Knoxville in mid-January Tennessee has been the one constant.  He’s visited Alabama – where he is still technically committed – and Auburn, with a visit to Georgia coming up this final weekend.  The Vols a handful of very important things others simply cannot offer: multiple coaching relationships (Pruitt, Sherrer, Rumph), a strong friendship with a fellow recruit (JJ Peterson), and immediate playing time.  Pruitt also will be going inhome with Walker this week, no doubt trying to at best land a commitment and cancel the UGA trip but at worst maximize the Vols’ momentum heading into the weekend.  All three other finalists will no doubt go down swinging hard, and the visit to Athens will absolutely be sweated out by the Volunteer staff, but the call here is that Walker signs with Tennessee

DB

The Vols need Defensive Backs, especially Corners, in a big way, and they’ve set themselves up pretty well here and now need to close.  With the recent commitment of Brandon Davis, who is likely to be either a blueshirt (so eligible to play in 2018) or a greyshirt (not until 2019) they do have one, but the need is much greater.  The board features five-stars Tyson Campbell, Olaijah Griffin and Isaac Taylor-Stuart along with Eddie Smith and Taiyvon Palmer, and frankly the Vols need to hit on at least two of these to consider it a success.  The problem is that eight days before Signing Day, while the Vols are in deep for all of them, no one would call Tennessee the leader for any of them.

Griffin is down to USC and Tennessee, plain and simple.  However, Vol fans have seen this movie before and know that it generally ends with the Cali kid staying local.  Tennessee will keep pressing here as much as they can, and DB Coach Terry Fair was in with the Griffin family yet again on Monday night.  Pruitt has used his inhome, so it will be up to Fair and Brian Niedermayer to spend as much time as allowed with Griffin to try and convince him to play his college ball across the country.

Smith was a CB many (including myself) had penciled into this class, but things have gotten squirrely in the last few weeks.  After unabashedly calling Tennessee his leader following his mid-January visit to Knoxville, Smith took a good visit to Mississippi State and then saw Alabama not only offer but seriously turn up the heat.  Pruitt tried to use his inhome with Smith to prevent a visit to Tuscaloosa but was unsuccessful and the trip to Alabama might have been too much to overcome.  It sounds like the Vols will keep trying here but it could be too little too late.

Every action causes a reaction, and Alabama’s focus on Smith (and big move for bigtime CB Patrick Surtain) has caused Tennessee to move in on Taylor-Stuart.  “ITS” had a great visit to Alabama but it sounds like the Tide is not reciprocating, which is giving the Vols an opening.  Fair was inhome on Monday night and secured an official visit for this final weekend.  Pruitt still has an inhome available, and although Jesse Simonton from Volquest suggested earlier in the week that he might not use it (with a major caveat that things were “fluid”) my guess would be that with things trending the wrong way with Smith and potentially Griffin Pruitt makes the trip.  Without a doubt ITS would be a huge add to the class.

Palmer is one of the biggest risers of the Late Period, garnering offers from Clemson, Alabama, and Tennessee among others.  He had an outstanding visit to Knoxville this past weekend and is down to the Vols, NCSU, and Nebraska.  A great student who was a former Duke commitment (and has offers from places like Georgia Tech, Cal and Notre Dame as well), Palmer is a 6’0 CB prospect from the Atlanta area that certainly fits what Pruitt is looking for in a CB.  Pruitt will be inhome this week trying to close the deal, but NCSU in particular is right in this one.

Campbell was on campus this past weekend, and though he had a good visit most think he is an extreme longshot.

The next eight days are going to be a wild ride, and who Tennessee is willing to take with its limited spots and who wants in could change dozens of times.  But as noted at the beginning, the work that Pruitt and Co. have done have stacked the odds very high that the Vols close with a strong number of very good prospects.  It certainly will be fascinating (and anywhere from breathtaking to heartbreaking) to watch.

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