June Recruiting Preview: A Massive Month for the Vols

With the month of May coming to a close and Tennessee sitting on 6 public commitments after the recent addition of JUCO DB Art Green, the Vols have a class that significantly favors quality over quantity at this point.  With the top two JUCOs in the country (Green and DE Jordan Davis) along with a Top 5 QB in the country, a 4-star DL, a potentially elite Slot WR in Jimmy Calloway, and one of the best Longsnappers in the country, there is absolutely zero fat in this class so far.  But, after losing a handful of bigtime prospects for whom they were in deep with, including DL Justin Rogers, OL Tate Ratledge, and WR Rakim Jarrett – not to mention the commitment of RB Ebony Jackson – the month of June is expected to be, and needs to be, a profitable one for Coach Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee.  In fact, given the accelerated recruiting calendar these days, with spring/summer official visits and the December signing period, it’s almost a must that the Vols come out of June with some tangible results.  Below are some story lines to watch as Tennessee’s camps get started this coming weekend:

Vols would like to see some instate players camp

As opposed to the class of 2019, Pruitt and his staff are clearly enamored with more than a few instate players.  At the same time, there is a group of instate players with multiple Power 5 and even SEC offers that don’t yet have an offer from the Vols.  Some do have a Tennessee offer but so far the Vols aren’t pushing as hard as others, and Pruitt’s staff would love for them to come camp in Knoxville and earn it:

DL Derrell Bailey (camping this weekend), Corbet Mims (recent offer), and Michael Reese (offer).  Dallas Walker is another instate DL who Tennessee has offered but so far isn’t pursuing as hard as even the likes of Auburn and Florida.

DBs De’Arre McDonald (will definitely camp, date TBD), Devonte Nelson, Dajean Gibson, and Yukari Blanchard are all interesting DB prospects.  Tennessee would surely love to add to its DB board, and if they could do it with an instate player(s) who earned an offer via a camp performance all the better.

Offensive skill players Darrin Turner and Elijah Young both have Vol offers but right now aren’t being heavily recruited by Tennessee.  That could change if either or both of them showed out at camp.  There’s really no good reason for Young – a Knoxville-area native – not to do so.

OL Marcus Henderson has seen his recruitment slow down a bit and likely doesn’t committable offers right now from the big name on his list, including Tennessee.  Were he to make the cross-state trek from Memphis and perform well, however (ala Melvin McBride last year), that could change.  Same for fellow Memphian, White Station Spartan OL Ray Curry.

Not all of these guys will camp, but the ones that do – especially those without offers – could find themselves being heavily targeted by Tennessee and could quickly reshape UT’s overall board.

Priority instate targets could make decisions

As noted, the Vols would love to build the foundation of its class with instate players, and OL Cooper Mays and Chris Morris,S Keshawn Lawrence, and DL Tyler Baron, Jay Hardy, and Reggie Grimes are arguably Tennessee’s top targets from the Volunteer State.  Morris has already said he will be back to Knoxville to camp in June after visiting the first weekend of May, and likely will take a summer official visit as well.  The others, with the exception of Grimes, have Tennessee right at the top of their respective lists and have developed a bond among the four of them especially while jointly visiting Knoxville on multiple unofficial visits.  They’ve also each flirted with the idea of committing this summer, and were one to take the plunge and commit to Tennessee it could create a tsunami among the rest (as well as others).  Obviously the Tennessee staff would like to at least get them back to campus this summer, but ideally would Tennessee would love for them to jump onboard. 

OL Board will really take shape

After a tremendous OL haul in the class of 2019 that came after adding at least two future multiple-year starters (plus a grad transfer) in the class of 2018, Tennessee is likely being extremely picky with its OL spots and take no more than four, if that.  With Ratledge committing to UGA, Mays and Morris are easily the Top 2 OL on the board for the Vols.  As discussed above, one or both of them could do something this coming month or close to it.  Either way, along with targets like Joshua Jones (who just put the Vols in his Top 6) and Denadre Buford, the OL below will see some action in their recruitment in June:

Bigtime OL Xavier Hill will take his official visit to Knoxville the weekend of June 14th.  He’s been to Knoxville once already and has also taken an OV to LSU.  He had once considered a May commitment – many thought Alabama was in the driver’s seat – but backed off of that.  However, he’ll be at Texas A&M this coming weekend and then at Alabama for a mid-week visit right after his trip to Tennessee, so with those visits in the can he may be ready to make a decision soon.

Tennessee has also recently added two JUCO OL to its board, both from ASA College in Brooklyn, the former home of Tennessee’s director of programming for football Joe Osovet.  Both Tariq Stewart and Antwan Reed will make unofficial visits to Knoxville the weekend of June 14th and depending on how the trips go and how they look physically one or both could become serious targets.

Richie Leonard will OV to Kentucky on the weekend of June 8th and is working on setting up OVs to Tennessee (he visited in April unofficially) and likely FSU after just OV’ing to Georgia Tech this past weekend.  He’ll then decide over the 4th of July weekend.  Miami, UCF, Louisville, West Virginia and Washington State are contenders as well.

Newly minted 4-star Marcus Dumervil plans to visit Tennessee this month, along with Ohio State and UGA.  Alabama, OU and LSU (already visited both officially) in mix as well.  Dumervil hails from St Thomas Aquias HS in Florida, the alma mater of current Vols Josh Palmer and Kivon Bennett, so Tennessee certainly has a tie there. 

Javion Cohen, who visited Knoxville back in February before committing to, and subsequently decommitting from, South Carolina, is fresh off an OV to Georgia Tech this past weekend along with Leonard.  He’s got OVs set for homestate (and presumed leader) Auburn this weekend and Florida the weekend of June 15th, so if the Vols want to stay in that race they’ll need to get him back to campus soon.

Josh Remetich from New Orleans will camp after receiving an offer this month. He’s got some lower-end SEC, ACC and Big 10 offers so it will be great for the staff to see him in person to evaluate.

Other targets will camp and/or visit

Undoubtedly dozens of prospects from the classes of 2020 and beyond will make their way to Knoxville during the month of June, many of whom don’t yet have firm public dates.  For example, LB Kourt Williams might visit this month as the Vols look to dip into California for a stud 2nd-level defender for the second year in a row, and fellow LB Rodney Groce also plans on coming back to Knoxville after a great visit in March. 

Below are the players who are known to be planning to visit Knoxville in June (along with the prospects discussed above), as well as some notes on Vol targets visiting elsewhere during the month:

Recently offered LB Allen Merrick and teammate (and Alabama commitment) ATH De’Rickey Wright, RB Israel Abanikanda, and DL Derrell Bailey will visit this coming weekend.  So will 2022(!) instate WR target Taylor Groves.  Notably, top RB prospect Tank Bigsby will make his official this weekend to South Carolina, absolutely one to watch as the Cocks are his presumed leader and will certainly be pushing for him to shut it down. OL Xavier Hill will be on an OV to Texas A&M (with some Vol targets). 

Additionally, Auburn is holding its Big Cat Weekend event, and Vol targets DL Zykevious Walker and Dallas Walker, OL Cohen (OV), DB Brian George (OV), LB Trenton Simpson (OV), and WR EJ Williams will be on the Plains.  Bigtime LB target Len’Neth Whitehead will make the short trip to Athens, GA to camp at UGA – likely in an attempt to earn a commitable offer.

The June 8th weekend is already setting up to be a monster, with multiple top-of-the-board targets set to visit.  LB Trenton Simpson will take his official visit to Knoxville in between the trip to Auburn and one to Georgia, while DL Omari Thomas and high school teammate RB Jabari Small will take unofficial visits (after both visiting Texas A&M the weekend before), perhaps also bringing fellow Briarcrest High student and top 2021 hoops target Kennedy Chandler with them. QB Haynes King is planning on making a decision by late June, and he’ll also be at Texas A&M this coming weekend before heading to Knoxville the 8th for his OV.  How that visit goes will likely determine whether the Vols end up signing a 2nd QB in the class to go with Harrison Bailey, as King appears to be their lone remaining target at the position.

OL James Robinson will take his official visit to Tennessee the weekend of June 15th, a week after possibly visiting/camping at instate Auburn, which will be one to watch.  Bigtime WR target Zevian Capers, currently an Arkansas commit, will also take his OV to Tennessee this weekend.  With multiple visits currently planned for after his UT trip, the Vols will need to hit a homerun with Capers to land him.DL Corbet Mims will also be in town that weekend, unofficially, while stud DL Darrion Henry is tentatively set to officially visit.  The Vols sit in Henry’s top 4, with LSU (already OV’d) and Cincinnati (OV the previous weekend) all trailing instate Ohio State, who will receive an OV the following weekend. 

DE Blayne Toll, S Jaquorius Conley and LB Quandrrius Robinson all have official visits to Tennessee scheduled for the weekend of June 22nd, so having three bigtime Defensive targets on officials will be big for the Vols.  Robinson will be at Kentucky the June 8th weekend, Auburn (where he was once committed) the weekend after, and Alabama for a mid-week official in between those.  He’s another one who could make a late June/early July decision after having taken most of his OVs.  Meanwhile Toll is thought to be an OU lean so the Vols have ground to make up there. 

There is simply no getting around it: June is a huge month for Tennessee.  After a more-than-solid class of 2019, Coach Pruitt and his staff absolutely have an opportunity to fast-track the rebuild with a bigtime class of 2020.  The Vols will have many of their top prospects on campus for camps, unofficial visits, and even official visits.  At the same time, many top targets will also be visiting other campuses.  Importantly, at least seven will take their official visits to Knoxville in June – after Tennessee used six of them for the Orange & White Weekend.  So the Vols – while not an outlier in this Spring/Summer Official Visit trend that has massively accelerated from last year – are absolutely shooting their shot incredibly early on many of their top targets.  Therefore, by the time the 4th of July rolls around the direction of Tennessee’s 2020 recruiting class, which is currently short on quantity but high on quality, will be much clearer. 

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