Although Tennessee struck out on most of its elite targets on National Signing Day, the Vols absolutely met their needs and then some on the Defensive Line. Needing to stock the DL corps with more depth and talent, Coach Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator Kevin Sherrer and Defensive Line Coach Chris Rumph added to UT’s Early Signing Day haul of Greg Emerson, Jordan Allen, Brant Lawless and Kingston Harris with three additional prospects. The one defining trait you see in this DL class is size. All seven of Tennessee’s signees are just big kids, and when you look back at the dominant Alabama DL’s of the last few years what you see if large humans and a lot of them. Without a doubt that’s what Pruitt is trying to replicate at Tennessee, and this class jumpstarts that process in a hurry.
Emmit Gooden Gooden received an offer from Tennessee a couple of weeks ago but has been considered a real academic risk coming out of Independence C.C. in Kansas. Something changed within the last few days, however, as the Vols welcomed him to Knoxville for an unofficial visit this past weekend. Given that he signed with the Vols the Tennessee staff must feel confident enough that he will qualify. If he does he’s an instant impact NG-type body for a team that very much needs one, as he’s a grown man and physically will be ready to play immediately
John Mincey Mincey is a large young man who will likely at least initially be a SDE in the Pruitt/Sherrer defense with the chance to grow into a player who can move inside. The Vols beat out Will Muschamp and South Carolina for the former Arkansas commitment and he could be one of the better players in the class when it’s all said and done
Kurrott Garland Jordan Young’s high school teammate, Garland was similarly under-recruited until Tennessee brought him in along with Young for a mid-January visit. At 6’3 and 250 lbs, Garland was hyper-productive the last two seasons, going for 126 tackles, 22 TFL, and 12 sacks his junior season and then following it up with 125 tackles and 12.5 sacks as a senior. He also was a playmaker, forcing three fumbles, recovering three others, intercepting a pass and defending three others. He played both NG and DE in high school and projects as a player who will grow into the ability to play across the DL for Tennessee
Of the seven Defensive Linemen signed by Tennessee, the two JUCO prospects (Jordan Allen and Emmit Gooden) and Greg Emerson (if healthy) project to be able to help the Vols immediately in 2018. With Allen and Emerson on campus for Spring Practice we’ll get a better sense of exactly what Tennessee can get out of those two, but you don’t sign JUCOs to do anything other than contribute immediately and Gooden certainly has the size and physical maturity to do so. Tennessee certainly has bodies on the DL now, with a total of 18 players at the position projected for 2018. It will now be up to the aforementioned coaches to get the most out of them, but a lack of depth won’t be a problem and from this view there is some talent there as well. This could be a position where I expect Tennessee to see immediate improvement from last season, and that’s before we get to overall better coaching.