Tight End Hudson Wolfe is set to make a public commitment in the coming weeks if not sooner. The Savannah, TN native, ranked by Rivals as the #40 overall player in the country and as high of a 4-star as one can be while also being the state’s top player (yet, somehow, a 3-star on 247 Sports…one of the biggest rankings variances one will come across), has narrowed his choices to Ohio State, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. Ohio State and Alabama have been perceived leaders at different times in this recruitment, with the Vols chugging along behind those two powerhouses for the longest time. There was even a time when it seemed like a fait accompli that he would commit to Alabama, and then to Ohio State. Tennessee was never considered to be a threat other than being the instate program. That all changed, however, with the COVID-19 imposed recruiting visit shutdown, as not only did Wolfe spend his last allowable visit on Rocky Top but he also wasn’t able to take previously scheduled official visits to Tuscaloosa and Columbus. Between that stroke of luck, Tennessee’s ridiculous recruiting run over the course of April and May that got every elite recruit’s attention, and the dogged recruiting of Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt, Tight End Coach Joe Osovet and the rest of the staff, the Vols appear to have taken the lead and are now thought to be the odds-on favorite for Wolfe when he does announce. What would a commitment from Wolfe mean for Tennessee? Let’s break it down:
From a direct on-the-field perspective, Wolfe is obviously an elite Tight End prospect. Rankings or no, if OSU and Alabama have made someone their top target at a particular position, we’re talking about a likely future NFL talent. 247 dings him for his lack of bigtime burst, but Tennessee and those two perennial playoff contestants value of Wolfe’s combination of size and athleticism that allows him to be a dual-threat TE capable of being a dominant inline blocker AND a major pass-catching threat. Were Tennessee to be able to pair Wolfe with current commitment Miles Campbell – more of a pass-catching TE who is about to get a major rankings bump – the Vols would have one of if not the best pair of TE commitments in the country.
Tennessee will go into the 2021 season without Austin Pope – the only “known” at the position heading into the 2020 season – as well as journeyman Jordan Allen. What’s left is to be determined, but starting jobs and a plethora of snaps will be up for grabs on what will otherwise be the most talented and deepest team that Tennessee has had in over a decade. Bringing in what will end up being two consensus high 4-star players who also happen to complement each other’s skill set makes it much more likely that Tight End will be closer to a strength than a weakness.
Beating out these types of elite programs for players, as we’ve said ad nauseum, is how you build a championship roster. Tennessee’s 23-man class, ranked #2 in the country, has a lot of those types of prospects, but adding another yet another one would be cause for celebration and give Tennessee another shot at hitting on a star. The more of those kinds of prospects Pruitt can stack on top of each other the better this class is going to be regardless of rankings.
Landing the #1 player in the state is something that Tennessee should rightfully expect to do. That said, for a variety of reasons, from the distance from Memphis to Knoxville to the influx of non-native born Tennesseans in Nashville to the simple fact that Tennessee has struggled on the field for the better part of the last ten years, the state of Tennessee is tricky when it comes to instate recruiting for the Vols. So getting a commitment from Wolfe would be a major accomplishment even if the Vols had not beat out OSU and Alabama for him. The Vols already have commitments from instate prospects ATH Elijah Howard and WR Walker Merrill and would love to add OL William Parker and LB Prince Kollie to that list as well. Getting Wolfe to jump aboard would certainly help that cause.
Make no mistake, Tennessee could have taken commitments from at least two other players in the last couple of weeks. A certain former head coach almost certainly would have done so just for the sugar rush of publicity that a new commitment brings. But Pruitt isn’t about that. That said, getting a commitment from a bigtime player like Wolfe would reinvigorate Tennessee’s recruiting momentum that landed the Vols at the #2 spot in the national rankings. Generating and then keeping momentum on the recruiting trail and therefore putting the Vols front and center into the recruiting discussion has been a major factor in how this class is where it is, and a commitment from this type of player would restart those kinds of national discussions about Tennessee that do nothing but make other elite recruits want to know what Pruitt and the Vols have going on in Knoxville.