There is a lot of speculation that current Tennessee RB commitment Anthony Grant will not end up signing with UT. After all, not only did he elect to not sign in the Early Signing Period but he’s also yet to take his official visit to Knoxville and instead visited Virginia Tech officially in mid-December. Many fans have written him off as another Pruitt casualty due to the perceived preference for bigger backs like recent signee Jeremy Banks and Alabama stars and behemoths like Derrick Henry and Bo Scarborough.
However, I’m not ready to say goodbye to Grant, and below is the case as to why Pruitt and Helton and Gillespie should be trying to hold onto him.
Anthony Grant is a Really Good Football Player
Grant is known of course as a RB and for good reason – he was the Player of the Year in his Region (5A in Georgia) and 1st team RB All County after rushing for just under 1,000 yards despite being part of a 3-headed RB monster with Michigan commitment Christian Turner and 2019 stud Derrian Brown. And he helped lead Buford to yet another state title game. However, he was also named AJC first team all-state at LINEBACKER. In addition, he returned punts and was on the kickoff coverage team (check it out at the 6:00 mark for a wedgebusteràshed blockeràtackle). And after his outstanding senior season he was upgraded to a 4-star by Rivals.
I think Grant could be a really nice complement to Banks in the class. As noted above, everyone associates Bama with backs, but the Tide has also had a lot of success with smaller (relative, of course) backs like Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs. Grant is listed at 5’11, 180 and is known for among other attributes his speed and agility, but when you watch his highlight tape (it is 8 minutes long for a reason) you don’t see a scat back who goes down at first contact. On the contrary, you see a physical player who not only runs away from defenders but also breaks tackles and initiates contact if necessary, not to mention showing good hands and the ability to pass protect. After viewing his defensive highlights it is unsurprising he was honored for his play at LB, as he shows off his speed and physicality along with an innate feel for the game. Now, Grant is too small to play LB in Pruitt’s 3-4, but the fact that he played the position at such a high level simply demonstrates his overall football ability and in my opinion a willingness to be more than a speed back. In my opinion there is no reason to think he can’t get to 200 pretty easily and keep his speed and elusiveness while just adding to the physical style he already brings
This Class Could Use a Second RB
With Jeremy Banks in the fold the 2018 class has a really nice piece at RB – Banks is a large, powerful running back with really nice speed for his size. And when you add him to the likes of stud Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan, Carlin Fils-aime and Trey Coleman, there are some nice players in the stable for Running Backs Coach Robert Gillespie to work with. The impending NFL decision from John Kelly will go a long way in determining just how good the 2018 RB corps is for the Vols, but beyond Chandler the rest of the group does not have a surefire go-to guy. So while I’m not saying Grant to be an NFL back per se, in my opinion he’s good enough to contribute fairly quickly – 2019 at the latest – and he does have some attributes that like Kelly (a two-way high school player himself) one could reasonably project some real potential from.
Buford HS is a Powerhouse Program You Want to Have Ties To
Buford High annually produces not just state title runs but also numerous FBS and more importantly SEC level prospects. Tennessee already has two players from Buford on the roster already in LB/D Austin Smith – who I think could see a renaissance under the new 3-4 to be implemented –and DT Quay Picou. Grant would be a third, and Gillespie is hot and heavy on the next stud RB in the aforementioned Brown. In addition, this year’s Buford squad featured national recruits on the Offensive Line in Harry Miller, Riley Simonds, and Carter Colquitt along with future 2021 stud QB Aaron McLaughlin who led the team as a freshman. Tennessee is unlikely to have a true “pipeline” at Buford – it’s an out of state high school in a state where UGA is king and everyone recruits from – but three players in three years, all on the roster at the same time, would give the Vols at least a foothold in a really strong program. And if anyone knows the power of high school relationships it’s Jeremy Pruitt.
What happens with Grant’s recruitment remains to be seen. Certainly he’s not a lock to sign with the Volunteers, and from all indications the opposite seems more likely. However, I think passing on Grant would be a mistake, as he would not only fit a position of need and bring a really good football player to the roster but would also allow the Vols to build what is already a strong relationship with a high school program that annually produces really good players. We’ll see if Pruitt and Co. agree…