No matter how well this recruiting class is shaping up for Tennessee, the Volunteers needed another potential impact cornerback in the 2018 haul.
Even though the early returns on Cheyenne Labruzza, Shawn Shambuger and Terrell Bailey are good from the first few weeks of camp, you can never have too much depth in the secondary. You also need to factor in that the Vols are losing Justin Martin, Emmanuel Moseley and Shaq Wiggins after this season.
So, that’s what makes the Thursday pickup of Jaycee Horn all the more important.
Sure, Horn is a stud in his own rights. He chose the Vols this afternoon on the SEC Network, deciding he wants to play in Knoxville over offers from Alabama and South Carolina. This commitment (if it sticks) is the fruit of months of heavy recruiting after identifying Horn as the top target at cornerback on the board. Even after he originally eliminated UT from consideration, choosing instead to focus on Alabama and South Carolina, the Vols kept recruiting him.
As a matter of fact, they turned up the pressure.
Almost immediately, Horn showed renewed interest in UT, and the courtship produced a commitment. The 6’0″, 175-pound 4-star cornerback from the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, Georgia, continues Tennessee’s surge in Georgia, where it normally goes to get a lot of its secondary. Horn joins 4-star safety Trey Dean as Vols defensive backs from Georgia in the 2018 class.
Consider this: Tennessee dipped into the Peach State to secure a commitment from Shamburger, and the year before that, UT plucked Nigel Warrior and Baylen Buchanan from the Atlanta area. Micah Abernathy highlighted the Georgia class the year before, and then-safety Cortez McDowell and Evan Berry were in the 2014 class. Cameron Sutton and Riyahd Jones got the Butch Jones era started off by committing to him in that half-class of ’13.
So, getting defensive backs from Georgia isn’t a new thing on Rocky Top.
The Vols also continued their trend of getting players with NFL bloodlines.
Horn is the son of former New Orleans Saints All-Pro receiver Joe Horn, and he joins Nigel Warrior (father Dale Carter), Kahlil McKenzie (father Reggie and uncle Raleigh), Baylen Buchanan (father Ray), Brandon Johnson (uncle Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson), Dillon Bates (father Bill), Todd Kelly Jr. (father Todd), Evan and Elliot Berry (brother Eric) and Kivon Bennett (father Cornelius “Biscuit” Bennett) as UT players who are pro legacies.
Horn is the centerpiece of a defensive backs class that already featured hard-hitting future nickelback Tanner Ingle, cornerback Brandon Cross, in-state stud safety Brendon Harris and Under-Armour All-American safety Dean.
The Vols added to their top-ranked class in the SEC, and it will be interesting to see how numbers work out. With the additions of Horn, receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis and punter Paxton Brooks this week, the Vols seemingly have only a couple of spots left (if that many).
Tennessee covets an offensive lineman (West Tennessee tackle Jerome Carvin) and a pass-rushing defensive end (such as many Richard Jibunor) with those final spots. Of course, you continue recruiting some elite prospects, and if they decide they want to join the fray, you’ve got to make some difficult decisions.
But there is very little wiggle room in this class. The Vols have a lot of quality players who meet big needs and who are potential big stars. When all is said and done, guys like Horn may make this Jones’ most complete class yet.