Warren Burrell Finally Gives Pruitt His Elite Cornerback Commitment

 

To say new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has struggled when luring elite cornerback prospects to Knoxville since taking over for Butch Jones last year wouldn’t exactly be accurate. But it certainly hasn’t been easy for a man known for developing defensive backs.

This isn’t as simple as recruiting to Alabama, after all, where the Crimson Tide are winning national championships in bucketloads.

Last year, star prospects like Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Olaijah Griffin, Tyson Campbell and others flirted with the Vols, but they all went elsewhere. Trevon Flowers wound up choosing UT over Clemson, and there’s nothing wrong with the commitment of super-athlete Brandon Davis, but the Vols struck out on elite corner prospects.

So, Pruitt went out and turned a couple of his stud athlete commitments into defensive backs. The Vols have Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson slated to play the position, and both of those kids have very high ceilings at the position. They both also could play receiver if needed, so it’s going to be fun to watch and see how good they are at cornerback — and if they stick. If they are destined to play there, Pruitt and Terry Fair will have a couple of nice, moldable prospects.

But the Vols went out and finally got a high school cornerback who was very high on their list Friday. A day after JUCO cornerback Elijah Blades spurned UT to commit to Oregon, the Vols landed North Gwinnett High School DB Burrell. He’s a 4-star prospect on Rivals, and though he’s just a 3-star on 247Sports, it sounds like he’s due for a big bump after listening to Rusty Mansell say he “checks all the boxes,” as a prospect.

Burrell had more than 25 offers but wound up choosing UT over Florida and North Carolina State. He is the first CB domino to fall for the Vols, who also are high on the lists of Jaydon Hill, Tyus Fields, Jordan Huff, Devin Bush and others. Tennessee needs at least three true cornerbacks in this class and maybe more. Burrell is a huge start.

He’s arguably the top player at the position on Tennessee’s list besides Blades, who was a true plug-and-play JUCO cornerback and a big loss. Burrell is a 6’0″ prospect who has long arms and great feet. He can be a shutdown-type prospect. Mansell told GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan that Burrell was a “very confident player.”

That alpha mentality is vital at a position where you’ve got to have a short-term memory. It’s going to be fun to see who else UT lands at the position, and while the Vols won’t stop recruiting Blades, look for them to target other JUCO DBs, and they’ll also continue to recruit some of the top players on their board. Again, Pruitt’s pedigree developing defensive backs has UT high on several of those guys’ lists. With numbers tight, it’s unsure who UT will take, who the Vols prioritize and where they’ll fit.

But Burrell always had a spot. He informed Pruitt last Saturday that he was on board, and he is a major piece to the puzzle. Pruitt values lanky corners, and though Burrell isn’t the tallest cornerback, he has a wide wingspan and also possesses good technique. He’s a winner, too. His team won a state championship a year ago, and they’ll look to repeat this season.

This wasn’t an easy recruiting win for the Vols, according to Rivals’ Chad Simmons, who spoke at length with Burrell. The prospect said at times over the course of the past few weeks, the Vols, Gators and Wolfpack all held a lead.

UT thought it was in the best shape for a long time, and he kept in contact with Vols coaches even as he was visiting other places. Tennessee ultimately landed him because of his relationship with Pruitt and Fair.

“Coach Pruitt being a defensive guy and knowing a lot about defensive backs definitely played a big role in my decision. He has had a lot of success at Alabama, he has been a part of multiple national championships and having the chance to learn under him I feel will make me a much better defensive back. That is a huge plus.

The Vols have been in on so many corners, it seems, since Pruitt took over. For whatever reason — the biggest of which has to be last year’s 4-8 record — they haven’t been able to close the deal. Now, UT goes back into Georgia for yet another pledge, and it’s a very important player who could help them open the floodgates at the position.

It’s possible Fields, Hill, Bush and others could make decisions before the end of the summer, and the Vols feel good about all three of those prospects. It’s still important the Vols play well on the field this year to keep some positive momentum going, but the commitment of Burrell puts the Vols in the top 15 of the recruiting rankings on 247Sports at 14th.

Still, in the rugged SEC, the Vols are behind Alabama (1), Texas A&M (2), Georgia (5), LSU (7), Mississippi State (12) and Auburn (13). The Vols are also 14th on Rivals with the Burrell pledge.

This could be a big weekend for the Vols to move up as they’ve got some important targets at their cookout. Check back on GRT for more details.

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