Tennessee Recruiting: Future of the Nose Tackle Position Takes Shape With Simmons Pledge

We may not want to be too patient throughout the 2018 football season, but help is on the way for the Tennessee Volunteers as new coach Jeremy Pruitt continues to outfit the present and future roster with size and physicality to compete in the SEC.

On the same day the news emerged that incoming freshman Kingston Harris is listed on the SEC Media Days roster at 6’3″, 316 pounds and looks primed to compete for snaps at nose tackle in the future if not right away, UT received a massive commitment for the 2019 class.

And we mean “massive” in the most literal sense.

Nashville defensive tackle Elijah Simmons committed to Tennessee over Missouri, Vanderbilt, Memphis and others. The 3-star defensive tackle may not have a ton of marquee offers, but he’s a big, physical specimen who looks tailor-made to plant in the middle of a 3-4 defensive front.

He is 6’1″, 344 pounds and is a low center of gravity who packs a mean punch at the line of scrimmage. He’s a space-eating force who can dunk a basketball at his size, and the Pearl-Cohn High School product gives UT the kind of huge, athletic presence that it doesn’t currently have.

Plus, it’s always nice when a kid looks like he wants to destroy you and then eat your face like Hannibal Lecter.

**Shudders; trickle of pee**

LOOK AWAY!

He probably will need to shed some “bad” weight, but there’s no reason why Simmons can’t play at 330 pounds and clog up running lanes in the near future. That’s exactly what UT needs for him to do to become a much-needed puzzle piece to the future.

So much of what’s yet to come from Simmons is still untapped.

“He still don’t even really know the position yet,” Pearl-Cohn head coach Tony Brunetti told GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan. “He’s still learning it. But he’s got major potential.”

Though it’s asking a ton of Simmons to be a future star when he hasn’t even played his senior year of high school yet, there are a couple of factors that are at least worth mentioning: Pearl-Cohn is the same high school that produced another pretty good UT defensive tackle in former Outland Trophy winner and long-time NFL defensive stalwart John Henderson.

Also, Simmons will be coached by another former Outland Trophy winner in Tracy Rocker.

Now, before you think we’re already putting him on early watch lists, nose tackles never win the award. But he’s going to be playing for a defensive staff that has a rich history of getting the most out of their players, and if he develops right, he could help the Vols fill a void that has plagued them for years. When’s the last time you remember UT having a quality rush defense?

I’m waiting.

Still waiting…

Thought so. Me neither.

It’s going to be interesting to see how (and if) Simmons and 3-star defensive tackle commit LeDarrius Cox fit into the same class. Cox has made no secrets that he isn’t 100 percent locked in with the Vols, and as Auburn and others come after him, he may not stick. If he does, UT will probably happily take two big dudes at the position in the 2019 class.

But it’s encouraging that a few productive months in the weight room has helped Harris, the IMG Academy under-the-radar prospect to look the way he does, and the Vols are encouraged by his early returns. Also, JUCO transfer Emmit Gooden will play the position this year along with seniors Shy Tuttle and Alexis Johnson.

Tennessee needs quality production out of that position this year and in the future, and Simmons is a player who UT worked out, he camped well, and the Vols loves what he brings to the table. He’s a very important piece of the ’19 haul.

The Vols want size, and Simmons certainly has that.

The Vols are still 18th nationally in recruiting and ninth in the SEC, but there are several other major targets expected to commit fairly soon. Though UT missed out on instate prospect Zion Logue who pledged to Georgia this past week, Simmons is a quality cog on the defensive line. There are some defensive backs who could “pop” soon, too. Jaydon Hill, Warren Burrell, Jaylen McCollough and Devin Bush are a few defensive backs with possible summer pledge dates. All of those guys have UT high on their list.

So, buckle up. It could be a strong month for the Vols, who should wind up in the top 12 or so in recruiting in this class, and that could surge with a strong showing on the field.

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