Final Weekend Preview: When the Music’s Over

This is it.  The final weekend before Coach Jeremy Pruitt’s first signing class puts pen to paper.  And not surprisingly there is still a ton up in the air with merely days to go, which makes this final weekend (and the inhome visits that are happening leading up to it) so important.  As we discussed earlier in the week, Tennessee’s board has continued to narrow as prospects have fallen off the board – some publicly committing elsewhere (e.g., WR Warren Thompson to FSU, OL Ryan Winkel to Arkansas, DL Jordan Miller to Miami), some trending away from the Vols (DL Malik Langham, CB Eddie Smith, WRs Antoine Green, Tre’shaun Harrison and Geordon Porter, RB C’bo Flemiser) and some being told there is no room at the inn (WR Trevon Johnson).  That leaves Tennessee with an increasingly small list of targets that they’re zeroing in on.

Tenneessee’s Official Visitors

As of a few weeks ago this list included DL Malik Langham and the aforementioned Green and Johnson.  But as the weekend has gotten closer those have been cancelled and the official visitor list consists of just three targets:

RB Jashuan Corbin – A former commitment to both Tennessee and then FSU Corbin is now down to Tennessee, and Texas A&M, with TCU likely only an option if neither the Vols nor the Aggies have room.  Pruitt and staff were inhome with Corbin on Monday laying the groundwork for the official visit, and this one looks like it’s trending the Vols way.  The question right now from a Tennessee fan’s perspective is whether or not Corbin ends up being a take for the Vols. What’s interesting is that it’s unclear if that is contingent upon a final decision from current Vol commit Anthony Grant. Grant, whose commitment is obviously still shaky (and it’s notable that the very well-informed Jesse Simonton from continues to maintain that he doesn’t see Grant signing with the Vols) is visiting FSU this weekend and has both UNC and Virginia Tech firmly in play.  Is that one spot either his or Corbin’s?  Or would Tennessee take both, with Grant projecting at a few other positions besides RB?  Or might it not matter if there ends up being room and Pruitt just wants the best available players – and Corbin is a helluva playmaker?  The goal for Tennessee this weekend is to make Corbin absolutely want that spot if it’s there, which makes this visit a big capper to a big week between the two parties

CB Isaac Taylor Stuart – In contrast to quite a few prospects like DBs Eddie Smith, Taiyvon Palmer, and Treveon Flowers (below) who have seen their recruitment skyrocket in the late period as teams reevaluate their needs and the remaining prospects after the first ever Early Signing Period, “ITS” has found himself in a strange position of being a 5-star CB who appears to have fewer real suitors and options than he had just a month ago.  That’s not to say he’s not every bit of the prospect people thought he was then – he’s without a doubt an elite talent whose 5-star status was solidified at January all-star events.  But with schools like Alabama – where he had a great visit just this past weekend – seemingly focusing elsewhere, Tennessee now finds itself in a prime position to swoop in and land the California star.  DB Coach Terry Fair, who has quickly built a nice relationship with ITS along with TE Coach Brian Niedermayer, was inhome on Monday, and secured an official visit, and now Volquest is reporting that the entire family will accompany him on the trip to Knoxville.  That’s obviously a great sign, and the guess here is that both the prospect and the family are blown away.  Whether that proves enough come next Wednesday will remain to be seen, although I wouldn’t rule out a commitment while they are in town

CB/S Treveon Flowers – As noted above, Flowers has seen his recruitment change dramatically in the Late Period, though for slightly different reasons.  The Atlanta-area prospect signed to play shortstop for Kentucky back in December but after asking out of that he’s gotten offers from Tennessee and yesterday from Clemson.  He visited the Tigers yesterday and assuming they push they will be major factors.  However, the Vols will get the final shot this weekend.  I speculated a couple of weeks ago that Flowers was lower on the DB board, but that was when Eddie Smith was penciled into this class and Olaijah Griffin (more below) was thought to be more likely to leave California than he is right now.  Obviously Clemson offering raises his stock quite a bit, and after playing only one season of high school football his coach was quoted as saying “He can be as good as he wants to be. We’ve got guys who have played for us here playing in the National Football League. He’s as talented as anyone we’ve coached here. The sky is the limit for him,” so there’s clearly talent there.  I do think he’s still lower on the staff’s board in terms of if they had their druthers, but as we all know you can’t always get what you want, so you might see the Vols go hard for him this weekend

Major Vol Targets Visiting Elsewhere

WR Jordan Young – The Tennessee commitment who Pruitt and Co. pulled out of nowhere and then became a 4-star prospect with offers and interest from tons of other schools, Young hosted Willie Taggart and some FSU staff last night and agreed to take an official visit to Tallahassee this weekend.  However, the Tennessee offensive staff is set to visit with him today in an effort to at worst solidify his already strong commitment and at best shut down his recruitment and cancel the FSU visit.  We’ll see – Young appears to be an outstanding talent and it would be a shame to lose him, but I ultimately think the fact that Tennessee found him first will make all the difference.  That said, the Vols would certainly rather that visit not take place

ATH Anthony Grant – As noted above Grant will be at FSU.  I think it’s notable that Pruitt never went inhome with him despite hosting him on an official visit – a decent sign that either a) Tennessee doesn’t think he’s coming, b) as Austin Price from Volquest astutely posited, they don’t mind if he goes elsewhere but didn’t want to be seen as “dropping” a prospect from the always-loaded Buford High School outside of Atlanta, or c) both.  Again, with numbers tight Grant’s decision will be one to watch as it could mean someone else on the board gets a spot.  I don’t think he’s going to FSU – UNC or VT seem more likely –  but FSU has room and Willie Taggart could definitely blow him away

WR Jacob Copeland – Seemingly down to Tennessee and Florida with Alabama running out of room for the talented Floridian (and former Gator commit), Copeland will be at UF this weekend.  Going into that visit Tennessee gave it all it could, sending in Pruitt and the entire offensive staff on Wednesday night.  Copeland visited Tennessee six weeks ago, seemingly a tactical error on Pruitt’s part as when he didn’t commit/sign with the Vols in the Early Signing Period (and few really thought he would) despite a great visit and a deep relationship that Pruitt has cultivated over the course of Copeland’s entire high school career, Tennessee was forced to play defense for the rest of December and January.  That could prove to be too much, as many think Copeland will end up signing with the Gators.  Copeland likely has a spot until he tells Tennessee “no,” so until then he’s one to watch

LB Quay Walker – Arguably the most important target left on the board, Walker continues to be relatively quiet as his recruitment winds down.  That said, every other school trying – Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn – thinks Tennessee is at worst tied for first here, while no one can agree who the other top contender is.  I’ve maintained for a while now that Tennessee’s combination of coaching relationships, JJ Peterson, and the allure of immediate playing time is going to win out.  Tennessee appears to have a lot of momentum right now with a trip to Georgia upcoming, and Pruitt also will be going inhome with Walker tonight to try and extend that and create a lead that is insurmountable.  Ideally Walker would commit tonight (and I don’t think that’s beyond the realm of possibility) and cancel the UGA trip.  But worst case seems to be the Vols’ increasing their momentum heading into the weekend.  Walker is UGA’s lone official visitor so they’ll no doubt roll out the red carpet and try to convince him to stay home and be the next Roquan Smith (a not-attractive proposition, mind you) so Tennessee will be sweating this one out for sure.  What will be interesting to hear is how much commination Walker has with Vol coaches while on that visit – that could be a tell-tale sign as to how serious he is about UGA and whether or not Tennessee is indeed the true leader here

DL Otito Ogbonnia –  The one true NG prospect, and one of only two DL left  on the board, Ogbonnia is a an extremely sharp young man who had a great visit to Knoxville last weekend.  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.  Hard to read where this one is headed, but DC Kevin Sherrer and DL Coach Tracy Rocker saw him this past week so there is no doubt that Tennessee is trying very hard here.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a decision before Signing Day

TE Glenn Beal – The Vols appear to be in a good spot here for the Jumbo ATH who could play TE (his preferred position), DL or even potentially OL.  He’s teammates with new CB commitment Brandon Davis (a blueshirt candidate at the moment) and Tennessee is battling down the stretch with Texas A&M and Ole Miss, and to a lesser degree Alabama though apparently they would like to try a way to fit him in.  He’s that good of a prospect. Beal is scheduled to visit Florida this weekend, but I don’t consider them real players.  To make matters more complicated it seems like he would love a chance to go to LSU if the Tigers have room, and they may not know until Signing Day and what their other top targets do.  So unless he publicly commits somewhere or LSU pushes hard before Signing Day I think this one will be a mystery until someone receives a fax from him

CB Tyson Campbell – Likely still a longshot, Campbell had an excellent visit to Knnoxville last weekend and will be at hometown Miami this weekend along with ostensible DL target and high school teammate – and Miami commitment – Nesta Silvera.  Campbell wasn’t even in the picture as of two weeks ago, but Pruitt went inhome and convinced him to take an official visit and appears to have gotten enough positive feedback to have sent the entire defensive staff to see Campbell on Wednesday night.  It feels like this is going to be one where Tennessee comes out of nowhere and makes up a ton of ground only to fall short in the end (UGA is the likely landing spot) but it also seems like the one recruitment where Tennessee could pull off a massive Signing Day coup

Major Vol Targets Staying Home

There are really only four more realistic targets (and those run the spectrum in terms of true likelihood), and these prospects are not visiting anywhere this weekend:

DL John Mincey – Mincey is down to Tennessee and South Carolina.  Both sides seem to have some confidence and Pruitt, Sherrer and Rocker were inhome with him on Wednesday.  South Carolina coaches (sans Muschamp) will be in his house tonight.  South Carolina has more buzz right, for what that’s worth, but this one is far from over.  Mincey has great size for a 3-4 DE and would be a nice pickup for sure

CB Olaijah Griffin – Griffin has gone from saying Tennessee was his big leader as recently as New Year’s weekend to most people thinking he’s more likely than not to stay home and sign with USC.  Tennessee has fired all of its shots here and though Griffin has stayed relatively mum for a few weeks there does not seem to be a lot of momentum for the Vols right now.  Things could change though as Griffin clearly likes the Vols a lot, and even though he also really enjoyed a trip to Alabama last weekend and they are perhaps a darkhorse Tennessee is still the likely choice should he decide to leave the nest and head East to play real football in the SEC.  We shall see…

CB Taiyvon Palmer – Another post Early Signing Period fast-riser, Palmer went from a Duke commitment to having offers from the likes of Clemson, Alabama, and Tennessee.  However, after an outstanding visit to Knoxville last weekend this appears to be a Tennessee-NC State battle.  I honestly can’t understand why, even removing my orange-tinted glasses, but word from is that Palmer is leaning to the Wolfpack.  Palmer is a good player with a very strong academic background and would be a nice add to a class that need Cornerbacks in the worst way.  Tennessee will keep trying to sway him so we’ll see if they can be successful and of course what happens with the other CBs on the board (ITS, Campbell, Griffin, Flowers – though he might be more of a Safety)

OL Dylan Wonnum – Always a longshot, the South Carolina legacy was convinced to make an official visit to Knoxville two weeks ago.  He visited Columbia last weekend and though he’s still considerd a strong Gamecock lean he hadn’t shut the door completely on the Vols as of early this week as Pruitt and Friend went inhome on Tuesday.  Again, he’s probably going to sign with South Carolina, but Tennessee will probably keep trying to communicate with him as long as he’s willing to listen

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You do an excellent job of providing, thorough, quality information, on a part of keeping up with my favorite college team (recruiting) that I don’t have much time for (nor care to give it more). And yet, if I am honest, I’m like anyone else, I get excited for the potential that recruiting stars and stories bring to the vawls! Thanks for helping me enjoy this part of UT football and keep up the good work!