Despite signing two high-level Tight Ends in the 2019 class in Jackson Lowe and Sean Brown, there is still both a lack of depth as well as the kind size that Pruitt prefers on the current roster. Further, 2019 starter Dominick Wood-Anderson is heading into his last year of eligibility. Only Lowe, Brown, redshirt freshman Jacob Warren, redshirt Junior Austin Pope and redshirt Sophomore James Brown are projected to the 2020 roster, and they all combine for 3 career catches, all by Pope, while only the freshman (giving Warren the benefit of the doubt due to his large frame and Strength & Conditioning Coach Craig Fitzgerald’s track record) truly have the size Tennessee wants at the position.
With Jim Chaney’s history of success using TEs as well as likely instant playing time available for a bigtime recruit(s), there’s not just a real need at the position for the Vols going forward but also a compelling sales pitch available. However, while that is clearly the case, there only appear to be two actual targets on the board right now. Both of them – 5-stars Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington ae obviously bigtime, and with that comes the kind of competition that will make it very difficult to land either of them. Gilbert, while UT QB commitment Harrison Bailey’s high school teammate and a frequent visitor to Knoxville, is considered a heavy UGA lean (with Alabama and Clemson in there, too), while Washington is being targeted by the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State among others. Washington will take his OVs during the season and attend games, with Alabama (vs. LSU), Georgia (vs Notre Dame), Miami right now guaranteed three of them and the Vols fighting Florida, Auburn and likely others for his final two visits.
Given the small number of current targets, as well as the kind of schools Tennessee is recruiting against for them, don’t be surprised to see Tennessee widen its net at the position throughout the cycle. The Vols will hope to add targets both during the upcoming summer evaluation and camp periods as well as during the season, likely including the Junior College ranks. One thing the Vol staff could consider, depending on how especially Lowe, Brown, and Warren develop as well as needs and numbers at other positions, is the fact that there are two stud instate Tight Ends in the class of 2021. Hudson Wolfe, who hails from a Tennessee family in Savannah, Tennessee (the same high school as current Vol Latrell Bumphus) has already been to campus twice this year including for the Orange & White game and projects as a bigtime player, while midstate native Jake Briningstool is already ranked as a 4-star by 247. Should the Vols like how the current young TEs on the roster are developing and feel like they have a really strong shot at one or both of Wolfe/Briningstool they might elect to not “reach” for a TE in this class just to have one and instead focus their resources elsewhere with confidence in the future at the position.