Here’s where it gets really fun. As new Coach Jeremy Pruitt builds an all-star recruiting staff that brings prior relationships with bigtime players from across the South (and indeed the whole country), the existing boards on Offense and Defense are quickly being bolstered with new offers and renewed interest from players who has previously moved on from the Vols. Below is a look at newly offered players as well as a few others for whom the new staff will likely get a new look – the good news is that it’s an extensive list, the bad news is that there isn’t a ton of time for some of them…
Jeremy Banks – High school teammates with major OL target Jerome Carvin, Banks is a bigger back who had a huge senior season that has generated a ton of new offers from major schools. He got a Vol offer last week and is very interested – he will be OV’ing this weekend. Whether he signs in December remains to be seen, but this is his 5th OV so there might not be much more for him to see. He seems like a potential commitment this weekend depending on how it goes, and him being good friends with top OL target Jerome Carvin makes him that much more valuable
Greg Bell – Bell is from the same Arizona Western CC as high priority OL target Jahmir Johnson and TE Dominick Wood-Anderson (see below). Bell has Nebraska as a top choice along with Louisville, both of whom he has already OV’d. Tennessee is hoping to get him to accompany Johnson to campus this weekend for an OV to Knoxville and is fighting Auburn and ASU for that visit. If he does make it in one has to think the Vols have a good chance, as he’s signing in December. If it comes down to Bell or Banks the Vols for the second RB spot (assuming Anthony Grant is solid, which isn’t 100% sure) Tennessee will have an interesting choice to make as Bell is an early enrollee and could represent a package deal with either/both of Johnson/Wood-Anderson
Jerome Ford – A Florida native who’s had a big senior year, Ford has an interesting offer/college list: while he has a standing Alabama offer (and an OV scheduled this weekend) and his other top choice is USF. He got a UT offer this week so it will be interesting to see how much mutual interest there is. He’s a likely December signee so the odds here are long, especially since there is a good chance he commits to Bama soon
Jacob Copeland – So, Copeland is a stud. Period. And the Vols were not even in the picture before the new hire – he had decommitted from UF and was considered a Bama lean. But he’s got a great relationship with Pruitt and after an in-home by some assistants last week he’s OV’ing to Knoxville this weekend. Here’s the (pardon the pun) catch though: this will be his first OV and he’s very likely to wait until February to sign. Obviously the best case scenario is he’s blown away by UT and the new staff, commits and signs on 12/22. I’m an optimist, and stranger things have happened, but that seems unlikely. More likely is Tennessee becomes a major player in this recruitment but UT has to fight through multiple other OVs (Bama, maybe UF, etc) until February. Copeland is a major talent though, so swinging big here is worth every effort.
Rashod Bateman – Kid flat dominated GA 7A competition in Tifton Co (South GA) and is a stud basketball player too, yet is a Minnesota commitment who until last week’s tender from Tennessee had very little SEC interest. He’s loved by local recruiting industry writers and feared by local high school coaches, and it could be too late for anyone else to get into this one as he currently plans to sign with the Gophers in December. However, one has to think the UT offer opened his eyes, and the hope he is he gives the Vols a shot. South Carolina just offered as well, and UGA is sniffing around too and could likely end things with an offer, so this one could get interesting. We’ll see…
Geordon Porter – The latest offer as of Tuesday afternoon, Porter is a very recent Notre Dame decommitment. He’s from CA with a great offer list that strangely does not include USC (Helton) that brings speed and athleticism to the table. In fact, he is considered to be one of it not the fastest WRs on the West Coast. It remains to be seems how interested he is in Tennessee, but he’s got two OVs left, having already seen ASU, Utah, and ND. Clearly the new staff is trying to leverage Helton’s connections in California and we’ll see soon if they bear any fruit
Dominick Wood-Anderson – The nation’s #1 JUCO TE has certainly enjoyed the process, giving multiple staffs indications that he was going to commit. Alabama has been one of those, and no doubt Pruitt has a prior relationship here (Helton might too). There is talk he might OV to Knoxville this weekend – if he does the Vols have as good a shot as any, and he’s a plug and play starter both due to his own immense talent as well as the dearth of quality and quantity at the position
Glenn Beal – A large body with experience both being an inline blocking TE and getting out in the passing game, Beal comes from a strong John Curtis HS program in New Orleans. He is a high level SEC recruit coveted by LSU and Alabama among others. Upon being re-offered by Pruitt he has immediately set up an OV for this weekend. While that certainly shows legitimate interest, Beal is likely (though not 100%) a February signee, so the Vols are likely trying to make a giant impression and hope he’s ready to jump in; otherwise they’ll be fighting major powers who will have OV’s left in their arsenal
Michael Ezeike – Former Oregon commit whose body type is in the style of Jason Croom and current WR turned TE Princeton Fant. Got an offer last week, but has already taken all five of is OVs so this one seems like a longshot for now – if he makes his way to Knoxville on his own dime I’ll happily change my tune.
Dwayne Wallace – Grad transfer from Cal who sat out last year due to an injury, Wallace is a massive man who started nine games for the Bears in 2016. He appears to have quite a bit of talent, and with the dire state of Tennessee’s projected 2018 OL he’d be an important add. He’s set to enroll somewhere in January, and as a grad transfer he’s the perfect fit – ready to play but a one-year rental who won’t hold the new staff back as they try to load up with a large 2019 class. He’s scheduled to OV to Tennessee this weekend (starting Thursday) and there is a good chance he ends his recruitment while in Knoxville. He’s previously OV’d to Miami and FAU.
Jahmir Johnson – Teammate of the aforementioned Bell, Johnson was recruited by the previous staff and has had interest in the Vols for a while. He got a quick reaffirmation of his UT offer from the new staff and is now set to OV to Knoxville this weekend. When he signs is unclear and he’s definitely not an early enrollee, but he’s a real talent and like Wallace would likely be in line for a lot of immediate playing time. Ideally both of these guys commit this weekend and fortify not only the 2018 class but also the OL for the upcoming 2018 season.
Johncarlo Valentin – Valentin is a center/guard prospect who has been thought to be leaning to Baylor, and has other offers from the likes of Missouri (OV’d last weekend), Temple and Kansas. Notably though, he signed with OU out of high school so he’s got some pedigree. He’s teammates with a new top CB target Jeremy Webb (below) both of whom the Vols are pushing to get to campus this weekend as they are both December signees. He’s a big body with some athleticism and is a good addition to the OL board.
Chase Brown – Yet another JUCO OL, Brown is a Pittsburgh commit who received an offer over the weekend. Interest is unclear, and he’s an early enrollee – which gives him more value but means Tennessee either gets him to campus this weekend or misses out – but what is clear is that Pruitt and OL Coach Will Friend see the need for immediate help at the position and are acting accordingly.
Coynis Williams – Massive Auburn DT commit, Miller got an instant offer to UT from Pruitt will to OV to Tennessee this weekend. However, he’s not signing until February so the Vols will have to make a huge impression to be legit contenders. Likely a longshot, but he’s very talented and a perfect NG fit in Pruitt’s 3-4.
Jalen Cunningham – Another very large NG prospect offered by the new staff, Cunningham is thought to be an Ole Miss lean with Alabama also in the mix. Pruitt’s got a relationship here and the new staff just offered today – if they can convince him to either not sign in December (likely with the Black Bears) or OV this weekend after the Alabama-Mississippi All Star Game Tennessee will have a real shot here.
Andres Fox – Currently an AU/Alabama battle, Fox is another Alabama native who didn’t have much interest in the Vols until the new staff arrived. How much he has now is undetermined, but the long pass rusher isn’t signing until February so UT will take a swing.
Javeon Becton – UGA commit from current Vol Eric Crosby’s HS, Becton is a pass rusher who knows Sherrer well. He just got a Tennessee offer and seems interested – in fact, he was in Knoxville for the UGA game in late September so he’s been to campus once already. Another February signee, the Vols have time here to make a push.
Michael Williams – A QB/DE (you read that right) from Louisiana, Williams has offers from the likes of Bama, LSU, and others. He’s not particularly tall at around 6’1, but he’s over 260 pounds yet moves like a 225 pounder. Likely a 3-4 OLB/Rush DE, Williams got a Vol offer this weekend. We’ll see if he reciprocates the interest, but he has the look of a typical Bama/LSU defender who is both big and fast and makes plays.
Jordan Davis – Bama commitment from Memphis (Southwind), Davis nearly flipped to the Vols over the summer at Orange Carpet Day only to be told no by his mother. Pruitt obviously has a longstanding relationship here, and Davis is also very close with Carvin. Some rumblings he might be open to giving the Vols one more look, but that seems to have been shot down (again, by his mother). If he signs in two weeks it will be with Alabama – if not, all bets are off.
Daniel Carson – Newly offered big-bodied DE from Missouri, Carson has OV’d to both Texas and Miami and has one scheduled this weekend for Nebraska. His interest in UT is undetermined at this point – he’s another who if he signs in December it likely won’t be with Tennessee but if he’s a February signee the Vols will have a shot.
JJ Peterson – Arguably the top prospect who Pruitt and the new staff gave Tennessee the best chance for as soon as they put on the Vol gear. Peterson now not only has ties to the staff (he loves Pruitt, plays for Pruitt mentor Rush Propst, and is from GA so knows Sherrer) but also to the UT program – Colquitt Co. has produced Vols in back to back classes in Jaquan Blakely and now Shawn Shamburger. Long considered a Bama-AU battle, Peterson has said he will OV to the Vols before signing in February. He’s instantly one of if not the most talented LB on the roster if he signs with the Vols – this will be a knock down drag out fight and one that could yield a crown jewel of the class should Tennessee win out.
Quay Walker – I’m projecting a bit here because there’s been no smoke about Walker (a Bama commit) really looking at UT. But he’s not only close with Pruitt but also is being heavily recruited by UGA (Sherrer). He’s a February signee, and I wonder if he’s a guy who Pruitt leaves alone until after he’s officially finished with his tenure as Bama DC and then tries to get heavily involved with. He’s a high caliber prospect and like Peterson would represent a bigtime injection of talent to the UT LB corps.
Marcus Murphy – An “athlete” who played a lot of QB for his high school team but is projected as a CB, Murphy not only got an early offer from the new staff but also received a quick in-home visit from fellow Mississippi native Robert Gillespie and new DB Coach Terry Fair. Murphy is a Mississippi State commitment and plans to sign in December; however, despite a good OV in Starkville this past weekend he is planning to OV to Knoxville this coming weekend immediately after the Alabama-Mississippi game. Could be one to watch…
Jeremy Webb – Teammates with Valentin at ASA in Brooklyn, Webb has one OV left before signing on 12/22 and enrolling in January. Webb is one of those JUCO CB prospects who blow up late, and the 6’3″ CB is deciding between UT and UF for his final visit. Should he decide to visit Knoxville things will be pointing up here for the Vols, who currently have zero DB commitments and need talent and depth at the position.
Rayshad Williams – After visiting Knoxville at least once over the spring/summer, Williams, a Memphis Whitehaven native, committed to Vanderbilt when UT didn’t come through with a firm offer. Obviously an excellent student, Williams is a very large CB (6’3″) and fits what Pruitt looks for in a high level prospect at the position. Though he hasn’t been mentioned with UT for months, Tennessee high school relations staffer Patrick Abernathy (who has relationships throughout the state and is a possibility to remain on in some capacity) is on the road while Pruitt fills out his staff and is set to visit Williams today. We’ll see if anything comes of it, but Williams has long liked the Vols and is not signing with Vanderbilt in December due to not being 100% sure of his decision, so there might be an opening here.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart – Big-timer from CA who’s been considering Alabama for a longtime, Stuart got an immediate offer from the new staff and instantly inserted the Vols into his Top 6 alongside the Tide, UGA, USC and Texas A&M (where he’s already OV’d). He’s clearly not afraid to leave the West Coast, and as a February signee he’s got time to sort through things and build a relationship with the Tennessee staff. Hyper-talented and would be an instant contributor in Knoxville.
Eddie Smith – Longtime TCU commit who also got a quick offer from Pruitt, the Louisiana native fits the Pruitt mold of long CBs. Smith hasn’t been very vocal about either the new offer or the strength of his TCU commitment, but it sounds like there might be a shot for the Vols to get more heavily involved.
Nikko Hall – California native who plays both sides of the ball (WR and DB), in my opinion this one is a long shot unless and until Tennessee can get him to campus. He’s incredibly talented though and likely has a prior relationship with Helton, so it’s worth trying.