Along with TN, GA, FL and the Carolinas, you can officially add the state of Alabama to Tennessee’s prime recruiting area. Many have scoffed at the idea that the Vols could consistently go into the Yellowhammer State and land bigtime talent, but after signing no players from Alabama in his first two recruiting classes and then three in the class of 2020, Coach Jeremy Pruitt – himself a former high school coach in the state and famously the Defensive Coordinator for the Crimson Tide – has himself five commitments from Alabamians now. And while some of them have been players who the two instate powers didn’t go hard for, a) even those players were pursued by other bigtime programs, and b) Dylan Brooks is NOT one of those. Between Pruitt, DC Derrick Ansley (a former Tide assistant), OL Coach Will Friend (same), and Tee Martin (a MOB legend), the Vols simply have tons of ties in that state. And with the program clearly on the upswing after the way the 2019 season ended, it’s starting to pay real dividends
Tennessee very much hopes to not be done in Alabama this cycle either. The Vols are also fighting instate powerhouses Alabama and Auburn for fellow Pass Rusher Jeremiah Williams; ILB Ian Jackson; and TE
Trinity Bell. One can be sure that to any degree those schools felt comfortable keeping Tennessee outside of their border they no longer think that is the case, so keep an eye out for both the Tide and the Tigers to redouble their efforts with those prospects in particular. One would also not be surprised to see both schools circle back on Tennessee’s other four commitments from the state and try and apply some pressure to the Vols there
This obviously take Tennessee’s recruiting during the COVID-19 imposed shutdown, already arguably some of the best in the country outside of Ohio State, to another level. Brooks also represent a true win in terms of landing the kind of elite player that the Vols have worked themselves into the mix for. Momentum is a very real thing in recruiting, and the Vols have a lot of it right now. Look for them to try and capitalize on that, both in terms of simply trumpeting it via social media, etc, but also in terms of perhaps applying some pressure to other prospects and urging them to get in the boat now. One such prospect that will likely see a renewed push in light of Brooks’ commitment is LB Junior Colson, for whom the Vols are playing catchup to Michigan at the moment and who as an instate prospect the Vols definitely don’t want to lose
When watching Tennessee’s defense over the last two seasons, what’s jumped out is that other than recent 2nd Round NFL Draft pick Darrell Taylor the Vols have simply not had anyone who could consistently get to the quarterback. Tennessee may have signed a couple of bigtime passrushers in the 2020 class in 4-stars Morven Joseph and Tyler Baron, but that remains to be seen. But Brooks is a bonafide stud and not the kind of prospect one has to do much squinting to see making an immediate impact off the edge
Speaking of Taylor, it could not have hurt Tennessee’s cause with Brooks to see the Seattle Seahawks trade up to take DT19 in the 2nd Round on Friday night. Nothing speaks more highly of Pruitt and Ansley than the work they did with Taylor to get him to that spot. And of course Pruitt doing a full court PR press to stump for Taylor had to resonate with Brooks and other high school prospects. Pruitt is of course known for being a coach that players just love, but when you see a head coach go to the mat for a player and then see the results in the form of a high draft pick that’s simply a big deal
Shelton Felton may, along with Joe Osovet, be emerging as yet another stud recruiter on Jeremy Pruitt’s staff. We know that Pruitt is one of if not the best recruiting Head Coach in the country. And we know that his staff already had two prior 247 Sports Recruiters of the Year in Tee Martin and Brian Niedermeyer. The other thing we know is that the trade of DL Coach Jimmy Brumbaugh for former DL Coach Tracy Rocker was going to be an upgrade by default simply because of how insanely bad Rocker was on the trail for the Vols. And that’s before the fact that Brumbaugh has a solid rep himself as a recruiter as well as a strong talent development track record to sell. What we didn’t know was how Felton and Osovet would translate coming from a much smaller pond and the JUCO/QC ranks, respectively. Well, so far so good for both, and that sets Tennessee up to potentially have a dominant recruiting staff
This goes without saying, but neither Alabama nor Auburn nor LSU – who was also recruiting Brooks hard – are going to give up here. Pruitt and Co. will need to continue to recruit him as if he’s not committed until National Signing Day arrives and his fax comes through. But, and this is not to discount the seriousness of the previous sentence, Brooks’ commitment did not come out of nowhere. He’s been to Tennessee’s campus nearly ten times. He’s been to multiple games in Neyland Stadium. He’s been to Junior Days. And he’s been up for random unofficial visits. He clearly has a strong affinity for Pruitt, the Vols staff, Knoxville, and the UT campus. Again, the Vols will 100% have to fight tooth and nail to sign Dylan Brooks. But from now on they’ll be playing from a position of real strength, which was not the case when Brooks was uncommitted.