January 22nd: Official Visit Weekend Recap

As we noted in the weekend preview, the Vols were set to welcome an interesting set of visitors to the Hill this past weekend.  As we also discussed, many of Tennessee’s top targets were on official visits elsewhere.  Schools UT is fighting with for certain prospects saw action as well, so there is a lot to recap from the weekend:

Tennessee Visitors

ATH Anthony Grant was on campus and by all accounts had a really nice trip.  He was told by the staff that they are recruiting him as a RB, although it seems that it’s clear to him that moving to defense is at least a real possibility.  He’s a kid who doesn’t seem prone to being overly emotional, and while he is definitely enamored with UT as a school and the football program in particular he clearly isn’t ready to shut it down.  He got an offer from FSU late last week and will OV to Tallahassee this coming weekend.  Many people, particularly Jesse Simonton from Volquest.com, have maintained that Grant won’t end up a part of this class for he Vols, and between his continued interest in the three ACC schools on his list (VT, UNC, and now FSU) and the incredibly limited spots left for Pruitt and Co. that is a reasonable take.  But he remains committed for now so it’s anyone’s guess where he ends up

DE John Mincey, who last week decommitted from Arkansas, came into his official visit feeling the Vols and exited with an even stronger affinity. He’s a large young man who would likely at least initially be a SDE in the Pruitt/Sherrer defense, with the chance to grow into a player who can move inside.  While he’s still scheduled to take visits to South Carolina and then Florida State before Signing Day, I have a strong suspicion he might have told Pruitt and the staff that he’s going to be a Vol while on campus.  Whether he becomes a public commitment and shuts his recruitment down before taking those trips is to be determined, and will be something to watch this week.  He’d be a big add to the DL class, that’s for sure

ATH Tre’shaun Harrison, a former Oregon commitment and 4-star WR/DB, was on campus with his parents and predictably was blown away by what he saw in Knoxville.  He doesn’t do much talking to the media though, so it’s unclear if coming out of the visit the Vols are true players in his recruitment.  That said, with FSU (along with the Ducks) considered to be real contenders, leaving the West Coast is certainly an option.  I think we’ll be able to get a real feel for where Tennessee thinks it sits if Pruitt and/or other staff make the trip out to Seattle to see him

OL Dylan Wonnum moved his originally scheduled visit to South Carolina and scheduled a trip to Knoxville instead.  Because his brother is at Carolina he is definitely considered a heavy Gamecock lean, but the Vols have worked themselves into the picture and got a much desired official visit.  He’s an incredibly quiet kid who notoriously does little media, so it’s nearly impossible to tell where the Vols are with him coming out of the visit.  That said, with the departure of OL Coach Herb Hand from Auburn the Vols are likely at least #2 going into his visit to Columbia, so they will likely keep swinging and see what happens with the very talented lineman

Neither S Nikko Hall nor S Trevon Flowers made it in this past weekend.  It appears Tennessee and Hall, who we noted in the weekend preview had an odd offer list, have agreed to move on from each other.  Flowers, an intriguing prospect who signed to play shortstop for Kentucky back in December but has decided he wants to play football too (which means he must sign a football scholarship), was in Lexington as the Wildcat staff tries to hold onto him.  He’s now planning on visiting Knoxville this coming weekend and will be one to watch

Tons of News in Tuscaloosa

Alabama hosted three of Tennessee’s top targets this past weekend in commitment LB JJ Peterson, LB Quay Walker (a Tide commitment himself), and DL Malik Langham and by all accounts did themselves some good with all three.  What that means in the next two weeks or so is still yet to play out.

Without a doubt though, Saban and Co. put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat with Langham.  The Alabama native had the Tide right at the top of his list going into the visit and he admitted on Sunday that they are his leader.  It could be considered a minor victory for the Vols (and Florida, with whom he still has a visit scheduled this coming weekend, and Auburn, who offered on Friday) that he didn’t commit publicly and end his recruitment completely.  But there is zero doubt that anyone else trying to land Langham has a pretty big hill to climb.  I wouldn’t be shocked if Langham never ends up visiting Rocky Top officially, but obviously the Vols won’t give up on the talented defensive lineman until he tells them to leave him alone as proven by Tracy Rocker being inhome with him on Monday night.

As one might expect, both Peterson and Walker had great visits.  Between the National Championship parade and the normal peer recruiting that takes place on a visit, one can imagine that both had a great time and that each of them felt like they could see themselves playing at Alabama.  That said, other than Walker commenting that it took some time for him to get comfortable with neither Pruitt nor Derrick Ansley on staff anymore, neither of them have talked much publicly about their visit or where their respective recruitments stand coming out of the weekend.  Therefore, anyone talking about it is simply giving their generally uninformed opinion.  Mine is that Peterson, with whom Pruitt still has his inhome visit (not to mention the Propst connection), is going to stick with the Vols.  As far as Walker goes, as long as he keeps taking visits – and he is still scheduled to see Auburn and then UGA before the final dead period – his commitment to Alabama should still be considered shaky at best.  If he were truly convinced it was the place for him – and if that convincing was going to happen one would think this past weekend was the time for it – why wouldn’t he come out and say it?  Frankly, this is in my opinion the same situation as Grant and Tennessee.  Therefore, my opinion stands that this is going to be a UT-UGA battle at the end, and unless UGA runs out of space (see below) they are going to stay in the fight.  My hope is that between his relationships on the UT staff with Pruitt, Sherrer, and Rumph along with his friendship with JJ Peterson and the immediate playing time Tennessee can only offer will win out.

Along with Langham, Peterson and Walker, Alabama also hosted stud CBs Tyson Campbell and Patrick Surtain along with Julius Irvin, who they had just offered.  And while Campbell still appears to be a strong UGA lean, Surtain and Irvin are now very much in play for the Tide.  Further, not only is Alabama is scheduled to have CBs Kelvin Joseph (soft LSU commit) and major UT targets Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Eddie Smith (and maybe also Olaijah Griffin) on campus this coming weekend, but they added to their recent CB offer spree (they offered former UGA commit Richard Wildgoose last week) by offering former Duke commit Taiyon Palmer. 

Point is, Alabama has a TON of CB lines in the water, and where they stand with most of them is unknown.  They’re likely to land some, so if you’re Tennessee you’re hoping that it’s guys like Campbell or Surtain or Irvin or Joseph or Palmer – not Taylor-Stuart or Smith or Griffin.  Lots to play out here, and lots of implications for the Vols at arguably the most important area of need

Other UT Targets on the Road

Both CB Olaijah Griffin and NG Coynis Miller were at Oregon, and the fact that there hasn’t been news on either of those visits is likely indicative of how little chance the Ducks have with either prospect.  Miller scheduled to be in Knoxville this coming weekend and UT is viewed as the one school that could realistically flip him even though he currently has an OV set up to Florida the first weekend in February.  Tracy Rocker was in to see Miller on Monday ahead of the visit, so clearly the Vols are hoping to set the stage for a big weekend.

Griffin hosted Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt inhome on Monday night. After naming UT and USC his co-leaders coming out of his official visit to the Trojans last weekend, Tennessee is clearly trying to regain the momentum in this newly-minted 5-star CBs recruitment.  He’s currently scheduled to see Alabama and then Auburn before Signing Day, but those visits are likely up in the air.  Ideally Pruitt crushed the inhome and convinced both Olaijah and his family that Tennessee is the best place for him and to commit and shut it down.  The more likely scenario is that the inhome reestablished the Vols as his leader with many more twists and turns to come

Arguably Tennessee’s top two remaining WR targets took OVs elsewhere, with Texas A&M hosting Jacob Copeland and UGA hosting Antoine Green.  And a third, Warren Thompson, was scheduled to be at UNC but it doesn’t seem like he actually went – he’s one UT would love to land but at this point still seems FSU-bound.

While the Vols trail Bama and maybe Florida for Copeland, his visit to College Station didn’t see to move the needle for the Aggies.  However, the Green visit to Athens is very interesting, as he is near the top of the WR board for the Vols.  Where he sits for Georgia is less clear, and they are still working hard to land Tommy Bush (who was in Oxford this weekend) at WR while working with very as few as three spots.  As everyone knows UGA is a big player for Quay Walker, and despite what sounds like a really good visit to Tuscaloosa for Campbell most still think he remains a heavy Georgia lean.   Notably, UGA also had DB Mario Goodrich on campus this past weekend and by all accounts made a lot of headway.  What Kirby Smart does with his numbers will be fascinating and could have an impact on the Vols, so it will be something to continue to monitor

Top CB target Eddie Smith was at Mississippi State for his Bulldog OV.  He seems to have had a nice time, and spent most of his visit with well-regarded CB coach Terrell Buckley, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of confidence out of Starkville.  Smith still appears to be favoring Tennessee heading into his OV to Alabama, and as noted above the Tide has dished out multiple CB offers in just the last few days along with being in play for aforementioned guys like Surtain and Irvin in particular.  So it remains to be seen where he is on Alabama’s board, not to mention that Tennessee could simply have too big of a lead to overcome

Texas hosted LB/DEs Michael Williams and Caleb Okechukwu.  Williams received his Texas offer right before the visit and Okechukwu during, and Williams popped for the Longhorns on Monday.  I am a fan of the jumbo athlete’s game and think he would have made a nice chess piece in Pruitt’s defense, but it was it was unclear after his visit to Knoxville the previous weekend how much interest either side had.  Okechukwu’s recruitment has been pretty quiet after earning a bunch of offers with his performance at the Under-Armour game.  And while he received the Texas offer and had a really good visit to Austin, he remains uncommitted and will be in Knoxville this coming weekend.  With Langham looking more and more like a big Crimson Tide lean and with Williams off the board (and Texas likely no longer having room), Okechukwu’s chances of landing at Tennessee look better than ever.  We’ll see how that visit goes this weekend…

TE Glenn Beal was at Ole Miss this past weekend and this recruitment continues to get wilder.  He had a good time in Oxford and Ole Miss could be a factor depending on how things fall with Beal’s remaining suitors.  The thought that he was an Aggie lean last week after his Texas A&M visit seems to have fallen by the wayside, and after visiting the Black Bears he’s now planning to visit Alabama and then Florida.  There is also a thought that if LSU has room Beal would love to end up there and will keep that option open until the very end. At this point I think the odds of him ending up a Vol are pretty low given Beal’s interest in so many other schools this late in the game combined with UT’s needs elsewhere and the number of realistic options on the board, but it does seem like the staff wants to keep recruiting him so we’ll see

No news yet from JUCO DL Emmit Gooden’s visit to Louisiana Lafayette, but Volquest is reporting that he’s less and less likely to end up a Vol.  To me that means he’s not likely to qualify at an SEC school

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