No Visits, No Problem for Tennessee Recruiting

With yesterday’s decision by the NCAA to extend its recuiting dead period another month to June 30th, let’s take a look at a handful of ramifications for Tennessee recruiting:

It goes without saying that, along with Ohio State, Tennessee has flat out owned the COVID-19 imposed dead period.  The Vols have added 14 (!!!) commitments during this time span, including two 5-stars and six 4-stars.  This in turn has rocketed the Vols class ranking to #2 nationally behind only the aforementioned Buckeyes and made Tennessee the talk of college football.  So it goes without saying that, whatever Coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff – from assistant coaches to the social media and player personnel teams – are doing is working better than what everyone else is doing.  One might therefore argue that an extension of this dead period, where no on-campus visits are allowed, is beneficial to Tennessee’s efforts going forward.  The old “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Due to the extension of the dead period, several prospects that Tennessee is heavily recruiting won’t be able to take official visits to other schools that were planned for June.  Most importantly among them, instate TE Hudson Wolfe – one of the top priorities on Tennessee’s entire board – was scheduled to take an official visit to Ohio State the weekend of June 12th, when the Buckeyes were set to host Wolfe among at least a dozen of their current commitments.  With that visit off the table – and his mother was set to attend as well having never been to Columbus before – that could hurt OSU (the presumed leader) should Wolfe want to make a decision sooner rather than later.  Especially as Tennessee continues to recruit him harder than ever.  4-star DE Landyn Watson, who just named Tennessee among his final six schools, was set to take an official visit to Virginia Tech the following weekend, but that’s obviously cancelled.  With the Hokies thought to be the leader in that recruitment, this gives Tennessee more time to recruit Watson harder.

On Tuesday, the NCAA also passed a blanket rule lifting the limit on phone and Zoom-type calls for 2021 football recruits during the since-extended dead period.  By pushing that dead period back and month, that’s 30 more days (plus the rest of May) that recruits will be subject to constant harassment from schools if they don’t go ahead and commit somewhere.  Now, obviously, in this day and age a commitment doesn’t mean that schools stop calling, but it certainly slows it down.  It also allows a young man to just turn off his phone for a while since he’s secure knowing he’s got a spot somewhere that he likes and wants to be.  What does that mean?  Maybe nothing.  But it could absolutely accelerate the timeline even further for some prospects who are already tiring of the process.

With 21 commitments already and a board of realistic targets that in all honesty Tennessee would feel good about with about half that amount of pledges, the Vols sit in an enviable position vis a vis supply (of scholarships) and demand (number of elite recruits very much feeling the Vols at the moment).  And with the above changes to the rule, that could put Tennessee in a strong spot over the next 45 (or more) days as more and more recruits feel the urge to shut things down with a commitment.

Speaking of commitments, Tennessee looks to be in a very strong position to pick up #22 when TE Miles Campbell from South Paulding High in Douglasville, GA announces his decision Monday May 18th.  Campbell, already up to 6’4 and 235 pounds vs. his listed 6’3 220, will be celebrating just his 17th birthday the day of his commitment, making him pretty young relative to his grade.  That leaves even more room for physical growth for a young man who displays a tremendous amount of speed and body control for someone his size.  Campbell, who has offers from Auburn, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan among others, also shows the kind of willingness to block and take on contact (even as a ball carrier from the Wildcat on a few occasions) that is needed along with the pass-catching skills for what Tennessee wants in a TE.  With Tennessee in need of two Tight Ends in this class, Wolfe will absolutely have right of first refusal for the second spot if Campbell does indeed commit to the Vols.  If he decides to head elsewhere though, the Vols do have a nice board behind him.  Tennessee is in great shape with Jumbo ATH Trinity Bell from Albertville, AL, and appears to have a lead on instate Auburn.  The catch with Bell is that, at 6’7 and 250 pounds, he’s projectable at multiple positions from OT to DE along with TE.  So in theory the Vols could take a commitment from Bell and still have a TE spot open.  Tennessee is also right at the top for the #1 JUCO TE in the country in Quentin Moore and is competing with homestate Washington – the Huskies may have the lead for Moore but Tennessee is right there with them.  Finally, there is 4-star Nevada native Moliki Matavao, who has a top 6 that includes Tennessee, Washington (see above with Moore), UGA (who is more focused on Brock Bowers), Penn State (where he’s never visited), Oregon and UCLA.  Matavao visited Knoxville last year and appears to hold Tennessee in high regard, along with apparently having a relationship with star LB Henry To’o To’o.  Finally, of course, Tennessee also has commitments from two Dee Beckwith clones in Roc Taylor and Julian Nixon, who could both project as Hybrid WR/TEs

As long as Tennessee continues recruiting like it has been for the last 4-6 weeks or so, no one in Knoxville is going to complain about an extension of the dead period.  And with the upcoming commitment of Campbell next Monday along with a handful of other prospects who could be on the verge of pledging to the Vols, look for Coach Pruitt and Tennessee to continue to take full advantage and put on more steam.  They have proven that no matter the condition they are prepared to outwork, out-evaluate, and outdo the rest of the SEC and, frankly the rest of the college football world.

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