Although so far there have been no public commitments, without a doubt the first visit weekend out of the dead period was a huge success for Coach Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols. Another sold out home basketball game in which Coach Rick Barnes and his crew took care of business didn’t hurt, and from social media one could tell that the current players were very involved as well. The Vols either came out of the weekend as stated leaders or having massively improved their position with every official visitor.
Below is a quick look at where the Vols stand with each of this weekend’s OVs:
LB JJ Peterson had a great visit but will still take officials to Bama then UGA. Although he seems very strong in his commitment to UT, no one should sleep on in particular Alabama here. That said, his post-visit comments included a ton of “we” and talking about how he worked on fellow South Georgia LB stud Quay Walker, so it seems like the Vols are in solid shape here.
Speaking of Walker, the Vols made an absolutely huge impression on him and could realistically be considered the leader right now. Although he’ll be taking an OV this weekend to Alabama (where he is committed in name only), the consensus is he’s not going there. He has cancelled his OV to Florida, which was scheduled for the last weekend before NSD, so it’s UGA and then AU who will get his remaining visits and are the biggest threats. However, no one else has the combo of coaches he knows/trusts like UT with Pruitt/Sherrer/Kelly so between that, the kind of early playing time that can only be offered at Tennessee, and good friend Peterson working on him, one has to feel like the Vols are in good if not great shape. However, this is going to be a knock down drag out fight to the end.
CB Eddie Smith came out of the weekend saying the Vols are his leader. He seemed to love everything about the visit and as a bonus knows new WR Coach David Johnson, who recruited him while at Memphis. He didn’t commit though, and will still OV to MSU and then Alabama, who recently offered. That said, it wouldn’t completely shock me to see Smith decide to go ahead and commit before one if not both of those visits occur. The Vols need Corners in a bad way and Smith is a very good one who no doubt sees the early playing time in Knoxville as a huge opportunity.
RB C’Bo Flemister now has the Vols in front, and frankly it doesn’t seem close. That said, he seems to understand that he’s in a bit of a holding pattern as the Vols both pursue other RB options and also decide whether roster needs elsewhere necessitate passing on another RB altogether. In my opinion he’s vastly underrated as a 2-star prospect – he rushed for close to 2,000 yards this season and is a high level track athlete who at 6’0 could theoretically be moved to the secondary as well. But with no other visits scheduled at this time he really has no choice but to wait, so this one will likely come down to whether UT decides he’s a take.
DE/OLB Michael Williams is a prospect I really like due to his insane athleticism for his size (remember, he played QB at 6’2, 250) and the positional versatility that comes with it. Coming out of the visit he’s got Tennessee at the top along with Texas and LSU (who has no room). He’s scheduled to visit Austin this weekend and I expect a decision shortly after. In my opinion he’s a Vol if he’s a take.
WR Warren Thompson also enjoyed his first time in Knoxville, and though most consider FSU to be his most likely destination (he was committed to Willie Taggart at Oregon) the Vols appear to be legit contenders. If the staff had its druthers Thompson would probably be 1B right behind Jacob Copeland on the WR board, so they’ll probably keep swinging here.
WR Geordon Porter had a great visit – being from Cali he was pleasantly surprised by how nice East TN is and of course impressed with Neyland Stadium and the facilities. He was also particularly impressed by Coach Johnson, who he got to meet on Sunday. Where he sits on the WR board is unknown, but I am a big fan of the speedster from California who’s already 6’2 despite being young for his grade and whose recruitment has picked up considerably since the Early Signing Period. He has one more OV that’s up in the air with UCLA, Florida, Texas A&M and others fighting for it. It’s likely to take place the 1/26 weekend, so this one has some time to play out as the staff sees where they are with Copeland and Thompson in particular and with numbers in general.
WR Brandon Aiyuk loved his visit as one would assume a JUCO from the West Coast who’s only been to Kansas and Arizona State would. He left without an offer, but Tennessee can get him if they want him. Pruitt is supposed to be inhome with him this week, but with spots limited and the Vols in good shape for other WRs ahead of him on the board, this feels like a smart play by Pruitt to give himself options should things get squirrely with the other WRs.
WR Jordan Young from Conyers, GA was a surprise visitor and received an offer on Sunday afternoon. He’s unrated by both major sites – in fact, as of this writing he doesn’t even have a Rivals profile. What’s odd is that unlike Flemister, who’s from the small town of Zebulon, GA and seems to have been legitimately overlooked, Young not only is from outside of Atlanta but actually made the AAAAAA All-State team. The similarity to Flemister, though, is that both are track athletes. This article discusses not only his track exploits but also his ability to bounce back from serious injury (an injury which may explain his low recruiting profile?). It’s interesting that he got an offer this weekend while Aiyuk did not, and while he has great size at 6’3 and close to 200lbs and the obvious athleticism, I have to think the staff isn’t ready to take him yet. It will be interesting to see what happens with his recruitment now that UT has offered…
DE Kurott Garland was the other surprise visitor and, similarly to his teammate Young, has an incredibly low recruiting profile. He’s got similar size to someone like Caleb Okechukwu, and had a nice senior season checking in as an Honorable Mention All State player, but like Young my guess is this offer is contingent on what happens with others higher on the board. That said, I give the staff a ton of credit both for unearthing two prospects in Young and Garland who look like really good players regardless of rankings and also for expanding their options as much as possible.
Notes on Other Targets
ATH Anthony Grant, ostensibly a UT commitment, was at UNC this weekend for his second official visit after seeing Virginia Tech in December. No word yet on how the visit went, and there still is not much clarity about where he stands in his commitment – which likely means it’s safe to consider it far from solid. Whether he schedules an OV with Tennessee is still an open question, and until he does it seems doubtful he ends up in this class.
Major OL target Johncarlo Valentin verbally committed to Baylor while on his official visit in Waco. That’s a blow to the Vols, as many including myself felt like the Vols were in at least decent shape after he OV’d to Knoxville in December and considered him to be an instant contributor to an Offensive Line that needs immediate help in 2018. To what extent Tennessee continues to try with Valentin is unknown, but considering the dearth of other options and the need at the position, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Vol coaches keep trying as much as Valentin is willing to listen.
TE Glenn Beal, who named Tennessee his leader as recently as last week, appears to have fallen in love while in College Station, TX. He tweeted on Sunday night that a big announcement is coming Monday – is that trimming his list again or a commitment? Time will tell, but all indications are that the Aggies are in a good spot. Beal is an excellent prospect with high potential at a number of positions (TE, OL, DE) and is the kind of player who you’d love to sign if you didn’t have real needs across the roster like Tennessee does. However, with two TEs already signed one wonders if he wasn’t viewed by the staff as a luxury “love to have” while players at other positions of more immediate need are more “need to have.” Like Valentin, we’ll see if the Vol staff keeps trying here or not if Beal does indeed commit to A&M.
CB Olaijah Griffin was at USC this weekend and will be there until Monday as he’s now elected to skip the Polynesian Bowl. According to 247 he’s having a really good visit and his family is encouraging him to stay closer to home. USC has been viewed as the “favorite” despite Griffin naming Tennessee his leader a few weeks ago. Knoxville remains his most likely destination if he were to leave the West Coast, but that is likely going to be a major battle. I expect Coach Nidermayer, who started this recruitment back in December with a great inhome visit, to along with DB Coach Terry Fair spend quite a bit of time in California working this one all the way to Signing Day. Griffin is good enough to expend all necessary time and resources, and given that he’d likely be a strong candidate to be a Day 1 starter it’s a good bet Pruitt will do just that. He still has visits available, and Oregon, Auburn, and Florida are all fighting to receive one.
DT Coynis Miller took his official visit to Auburn, where he has been committed to for months, and while he seemed to enjoy himself he is still planning to take his other scheduled official visits. He’ll start with a trip to Eugene, OR to see the Ducks, followed by trips to UT and then Florida. Tennessee seems like the only real possibility for a flip, and as a top end NG prospect who Pruitt and Co. were on the first day on the job you can bet they will pull out all the stops when they do get him on campus.
CB Roger McCreary took his official visit to instate Auburn, and while he named AU his leader he did not commit. I’m not sure that staff was ready to take his commitment, as they are technically still in the race for Griffin (scheduled for an OV 2/2) and a handful of other CBs. McCreary will OV to Alabama this coming weekend and then is scheduled to be at UT 1/26. He’s likely down on the board for all three, but he’s a good enough prospect that he likely will end up with a spot somewhere.
DE John Mincey, who last week decommitted from Arkansas, has set his official visits to Tennessee this coming weekend, followed by South Carolina and then FSU. However, per GoVols247, Tennessee is the team to beat going into the weekend. Should the Vols push for a commitment they might be able to lock him down. The question is how many more DL they want to take – Coynis Miller is a take no matter what as the only pure NG on the board, but Malik Langham is a really good player who seems to be a battle between the Vols and instate Alabama. And now, per the below, Emmit Gooden is on the board. Can the Vols take two? All three? Not sure, but that’s another interesting positional balance the staff will have to manage..
Speaking of Langham, no word yet on how his official visit to Vanderbilt went – I don’t consider them to be serious contenders – but interestingly Langham’s primary recruiter at Alabama has been Brian Daboll, the now former Tide OC who is leaving for the NFL. Obviously Langham has other relationships on that staff, but considering Alabama now has neither a DC nor Langham’s main recruiter, things certainly don’t look the same for him when it comes to who he knows and likes and would play for there. He’s scheduled to be at Alabama this coming weekend and then UF 1/26 and then will take his visit to Knoxville the first weekend in February. If he makes it out of Tuscaloosa without committing to the Tide and the Vols are still pushing I think there’s a very good chance he ends up in Orange and White.
ATH Tre’shaun Harrison, a former Oregon commitment, took an official visit to Utah this past weekend. He will OV to Tennessee this coming weekend and then to Oregon and FSU (Taggart, again). He’s a 4-star player capable of playing both WR and DB, and he’s another West Coast kid who’s likely to be blown away by what he sees in Knoxville. The interest on both sides is a bit unknown at this point, but there’s enough from Harrison to fly thousands of miles to check it out. We’ll know more on this one after his OV is over.
Two New Sunday Night Offers
JUCO DT Emmit Gooden received an offer from Tennessee on Sunday evening. The big man from Haywood, TN was a UT commitment back in 2014 as a member of the 2016 class, only to end up signing with Mississippi State. He didn’t qualify and has spent the last two seasons at Independence C.C. in Kansas. His recruitment has started to heat up recently with offers from Florida and now Tennessee. He’s now set to visit Knoxville on February 2nd, with an OV to Louisiana Lafayette this coming weekend and then options among UF and others for the following. My opinion is that if this staff pushes he’ll end up a Volunteer. He’s a grown man at this point, and physically will be ready to play immediately at either Strongside DE or even NG. This will be one to watch closely moving forward.
CB Taiyvon Palmer also received a Sunday night offer from the Vols. Palmer, from outside of Atlanta, is a former Duke commitment whose recruiting has absolutely blown up in the last month – he received offers from Clemson, Notre Dame, and now UT in the last week alone. He’s another 6’0 CB whose second official visit this weekend was to Nebraska. He’s got one scheduled to NC State this coming weekend but has two more available for the final two weeks before Signing Day. It remains to be seen how interested he is, but like all of the other CBs who have received offers from the Pruitt staff he’s likely at least intrigued by both the possibility of being coached by Pruitt and Terry Fair as well as the large opportunity for immediate playing time.