Tennessee Recruiting: Vols Stay Hot; Gain Pledge from Top JUCO LB Lakia Henry

 

Things may have gotten off slowly for new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt in 2019 recruiting, but things certainly have picked up lately. The Vols received a huge pledge on Sunday, getting a commitment from Lakia Henry.

The nation’s top-ranked JUCO linebacker according to the 247Sports composite rankings visited Knoxville this past week and followed it up with trips to Nebraska and Ole Miss. But he couldn’t get Rocky Top off his mind.

Now, though he told GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan that he still plans on taking some trips, he chose to commit to Tennessee, Pruitt and lead recruiter Kevin Sherrer. The defensive coordinator recruits South Georgia, where from where the Dodge City (Kansas) Community College prospect originally hails, and the two have established a strong bond. The Vols will continue to recruit Henry with teams such as Alabama and Texas A&M hot after him, too, but Henry is in the house with a verbal pledge.

You can give an assist to UT graduate assistant Joe Osovet, a former JUCO head coach who was instrumental in luring Henry.

He told Callahan that UT is “the place I want to be.” That’s a big deal considering the Vols desperately want him, too. He’s the nation’s top-ranked JUCO LB and the third overall transfer pledge in the class. With Pruitt trying to rebuild and reload the Vols in a hurry, he immediately fits what Tennessee needs.

Henry is 6’0″, 233 pounds, can fly, and arrives with a vengeance. He is a versatile ‘backer and a weapon that looks like an Alabama or Georgia linebacker, much like J.J. Peterson, UT’s big ’18 commit of the Pruitt regime. Henry can play sideline-to-sideline, and the Vols should be able to use him much the way Pruitt did with Reuben Foster at Alabama.

Much like the Vols have done with virtually all their pledges of the Pruitt regime, Henry adds to the size on the roster. Tennessee must essentially revamp its roster, purging it from the Butch Jones mentality of speed and eschewing size. Pruitt needs bigger bodies for his 3-4 scheme, and he wants bigger bodies on the offensive line and at tight end and the skill positions to run a pro-style scheme. Henry continues that trend.

He’s the third commit for Tennessee in the past nine days, joining tight end Sean Brown and wide receiver Ramel Keyton. The Vols’ recent surge began with 5-star offensive lineman Wanya Morris, and the run in Georgia started then, too. All of the mentioned prospects hail from the Peach State, which is going to be a major part of UT getting back to where it wants to be.

Tennessee continues to inch up in the SEC rankings, moving to 15th nationally and eighth in the conference with the latest pledge. Though this isn’t supposed to be a huge class, the Vols currently sit in a favorable position with some of the nation’s top players.

Five-star running back/outside linebacker Quavarius Crouch and 5-star offensive lineman Darnell Wright, 4-star cornerbacks Tyus Fields, Devin Bush and Jaydon Hill, 3-star outside linebacker/defensive end Terrell Dawkins, defensive end Savion Jackson, weak-side defensive end Khris Bogle, running back John Emery, wide receiver Jalen Curry, receiver Khafre Brown, linebacker Kane Patterson, athlete Ronald Thompkins and more hold the Vols in high regard.

It’s going to be interesting to see the class shapes up over the next few months. Some storylines to follow are what the Vols are going to do at quarterback, if they begin to surge with running backs and if they can continue the momentum they’ve built with Crouch and Wright.

One thing is clear: Pruitt is recruiting with the big boys, and Henry is the latest example. UT’s class is really just starting, and the Vols are filling it with some elite playmakers. They’ll have to battle to keep Henry, but this is a big piece of the puzzle who should be able step right in and play immediately.

 

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