Not much else to add on last week’s legitimately historic recruiting run other than that it appears that it’s not quite over yet. The most important thing is not just the number of commitments and not even the rankings – though adding two 5-stars in one-week is incredible enough – but the competition Tennessee is besting to land these players. We’ve talked ad nauseum about how Tennessee has to win more recruiting battles for elite players against elite programs in order to take the next step from 7-8 wins to being legitimately in the championship conversations. And more than a few of the Vols commitments before last week were examples of those types of wins. But to almost double your commitment total in one week with 100% of those players representing those types of recruiting wins is really something. It’s the kind of thing that accelerates a rebuild from a step-by-step, multiple season sort of thing to something much quicker and more sustainable
Everyone who follows recruiting knows that even in a normal recruiting cycle there are always decommitments – guys who flip to another school and guys who are recruited over. In this unique 2021 cycle, with Zoom calls and enhanced Twitter graphics replacing on-campus visits and coaches on the road, the odds of decommitments likely goes much higher. Given that strong possibility, expect Coach Pruitt and Tennessee to continue to push the pedal to the metal when it comes to adding more and more elite talent. From this perspective it wouldn’t even be shocking to see Tennessee have more than 25 commitments at some point in the cycle and then let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes you just have to maximize your opportunity, and this appears to be one for Tennessee when it comes to recruiting momentum. And for a coach who’s attempted multiple onsides kicks and likes to blitz regardless of down and distance, Pruitt simply strikes as someone who is going to make the most of this while he can, especially given that there remains a talent gap between Tennessee and the Alabamas and LSUs of the college football world.
All that said, there doesn’t appear to be much if any “fat” on the current commitment list, and it’s pretty clear that anyone being added from here on out will be an elite prospect. So along with the question of how to continue to add bigtime commitments is the question of how to keep this class intact as much as is realistically possible. With the caveat that Pruitt needs zero recruiting tips from anyone let alone the author, it seems prudent to be, in parallel with continuing to do whatever the heck he and his staff have been doing during this shutdown, planning for what happens when on-campus visits are allowed. Contingencies will of course need to be made depending on when that exactly is, but the first priority should be getting as many of these commitments to Knoxville immediately. That is, before they visit anywhere else. Tennessee has had success with themed weekends over the last two summers, with a pool party and paintball tournament that both resonated with prospects. Ideally the Vols will be able to host something similar before the season starts, but whatever it is the staff should be trying to lock down dates for these commitments to visit, perhaps even for an invitation-only commitment-only type event. There are already text chains, and probably Zoom calls too, among the commitments. But getting them to campus, particularly if it can be done all together with a bunch of hype, would go a long way towards making these guys even firmer in their respective commitments.
With today’s commitment of Colby Smith, the Vols now have their first pledge from an Offensive Lineman in the class. After signing two 5-star OTs in the 2019 class – both of whom project to be starters in 2020 after getting a ton of playing time their freshman season – Tennessee went Interior OL heavy in the 2020 class. There is of course always a need for high quality OTs, and Smith is definitely that, which makes him a great start. At 6’7 and 300 pounds he’s got perfect size for an OT to go with high level athleticism, and the presence of a veteran group of OTs will enable him to ease his way into the rotation in the future. But the Vols – who theoretically don’t have a ton of spots remaining (caveat: see 2nd paragraph above) – definitely need to fill out the rest of the OL and DL class. Tennessee is in solid shape for instate OL Dietrick Pennington from Memphis and William Parker from Nashville, and is also battling for bigtime Peach State native Dylan Fairchild. Diego Pounds, an OT from North Carolina, is also very much in play. And Tennessee has also tendered an offer to OT Hugh Laughlin, who hails from the same high school in Athens, GA as 2020 signee Len’neth Whitehead. So the Vols have options on the OL. On the DL, top targets include Jahvaree Ritzie, Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, Payton Page, Jamond Gordon (a JUCO early enrollee), Leonard Taylor, and Katron Evans. Tennessee is deep in the mix for that entire list of players, with Taylor being the longest shot at the moment. Evans is tentatively set to commit this coming Sunday along with his teammate 4-star LB Aaron Willis, both of whom hail from Baltimore’s St Frances Academy from which 2020 signee Dominic Bailey just graduated. Tennessee appears to be in very good shape for both Willis and Evans, a 4-star interior DL at 6’4 and 320 pounds. So, yeah, the Vols have set themselves up to meet needs on both lines of scrimmage, too.
Quickly from a future facing perspective, not only could the Vols land two or maybe even three players from St Frances in 2021 (the third being 4-star LB Jamon Dumas Johnson) to go with Bailey, but Tennessee has also already offered 5 players at the school from the 2022 class. TE Coach Joe Osovet, who has been working the DC/Maryland/Virginia/Pennsylvania area incredibly hard, is not only starting to see success in 2021 but could be setting the Vols up for even more success down the road in what is simply put, in the most complementary way, a football factory.
Vol fans are going to have to navigate Mother’s Day a little carefully this year, as not only are Willis and potentially Evans scheduled to commit but so is 4-star and 247 Sports Top 100 player QB Kaidon Salter. All signs point to Salter picking the Vols, so between those three (at least!) Tennessee fans will have to be sure to not offend anyone by checking their phones throughout the day 🙂
Would it be surprising to see the Vols go without another commitment between Colby Smith today and the Mother’s Day Three this Sunday? At this point…yep.