Another Day, Another Big-Time Pickup for Tennessee’s Secondary



All of a sudden, Tennessee is the happening place to be for cornerbacks.

After failing to close last year’s or start this year’s class with a quality defensive back, Tennessee followed up Friday’s Warren Burrell commitment with a pledge from North Carolina DB Tyus Fields, who chose the Vols over Clemson and North Carolina State.

The 4-star cornerback’s brother plays for the Tigers, but Fields has been locked into what coach Jeremy Pruitt has been dishing out for several months now. Though he doesn’t fit the big cornerback that Pruitt normally covets, Fields packs a punch like one.

The 5’10”, 182-pound William Amos Hough High School standout is a big-time hitter, and that physicality is an important reason why the Vols want him to be a part of the future. He committed to UT at the cookout this weekend, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the numbers shake out.

With Jaydon Hill expected to have Tennessee at the top of his list and announcing soon, the big, physical defender from Bob Jones High School in Madison, Alabama, is definitely a take. But what about after him?

The picture cleared up a little for the Vols on Thursday when Elijah Blades chose Oregon over UT, but there are still some very good targets who could want in the boat. Louisiana cornerback Devin Bush is one, as is Georgia prospects Jaylen McCullough and Jordan Huff. Having a group of interested prospects like that is a big reason why the Vols weren’t disappointed to let instate athletes like Woodi Washington, Lance Wilhoite Jr. and Adonis Otey walk. Of course, those guys could play on offense, but it looks like at least a couple of them won’t on the next level.

The Vols wanted Memphis area standout Maurice Hampton to come to Knoxville, but the long-time LSU pledge appears locked into the Bayou Bengals to play football and baseball, unless Pruitt can work some defensive magic there recruiting.

All will be fine either way. Getting Burrell and Fields on back-to-back days is huge for the Vols, who are now surging up the rankings and are 11th nationally and fifth in the SEC behind Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia and LSU. With some big-time playmakers left on the board, it’ll be interesting to see how far the Vols can rise.

Offensive lineman Darnell Wright, running back/linebacker Quavaris Crouch, a couple of defensive tackles, another defensive back and a pass-rusher look like the way UT wants to close out the class. Throw in a wide receiver there, and of course there’s the possible attrition of a couple of players who are currently committed.

But Saturday was about Fields.

“Really, it was Coach Pruitt, and how he brought everybody together,” Fields told GoVols247’s Wes Rucker. “He’s forming something really special up here at Tennessee.”

The Vols have commitments from two of 247Sports’ top six prospects in the state of North Carolina, and this is the way the Vols recruiting back in the heyday of the program under Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer. That state was a priority. Of course, most of the hay has been made in Georgia this year, and UT is a bigger factor in Alabama than it has been since the Fulmer era too with Pruitt’s roots and connections there.

But UT put Brian Niedermeyer in the Tar Heel State, and it’s paying huge dividends. The Vols want to be a presence there in the 2020 class and beyond, too, and if they can land Crouch, it would be the kind of commitment from NC that will send shockwaves across the country.

John Garcia Jr., who is a 247Sports analyst, told Rucker in another story that the Vols are making major noise in that state.

“It’s no secret that when Tennessee is rolling, that I-40 connection really resonates with kids. Tennessee’s a lot closer to those areas than a lot of those North Carolina schools would like to acknowledge.

“When Tennessee is going good, they’re able to pluck the best from North Carolina and compete with Clemson, Virginia Tech and others in that area.”

This is some pretty big success Pruitt is experiencing and UT hasn’t even starting winning yet. If the Vols can make some moves on the football field (where it counts) recruiting is going to heat up in a hurry. This year’s class has the size upgrade, is meeting the needs in the trenches and in the secondary and has even landed a promising prospect at quarterback in a year that isn’t very strong at the position.

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I mean that’s the same strategy Tennessee took to recruit its US presidents, so can’t be too bad.