With today’s commitment of WR Walker Merrill from Brentwood HS in Nashville, Tennessee now has nine public commitments. Merrill is the second of those from the Volunteer State along with ATH Elijah Howard, and is another elite talent in the Vols’ commitment column. Our prior column understated both Merrill’s standing on Tennessee’s board as well as the idea that his offers from LSU and Auburn were committable, thereby now him in that elite tier. Nevertheless, his commitment does highlight the broader point, which is that regardless of the early-cycle narrative that the state of Tennessee is perhaps down in talent compared to prior years the Vols will very much still have a chance to build the 2021 class around the bigtime talent that does exist within the state’s borders.
With Merrill now in the fold the Vols can turn their instate attention firmly to LB Junior Colson – who appears to be closing in on a decision and has the Vols firmly at the top of his list along with Michigan, LSU, and OU – OL William Griffin and Dietrick Pennington, TE Hudson Wolfe, and WRs Adonai Mitchell and Tray Curry – all of whom are elite prospects themselves.
Were the Vols able to land those 5-6 players above to go with Howard and Merrill the 2021 class would have a bigtime base of instate talent to build around, and once the season gets started there will likely be more talent that emerges. As Coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff seek to add North Carolina to Georgia and Alabama in terms of its “Focus States,” they’ll also continue to be opportunistic in areas where individuals on the staff have ties, such as the DMV and Philadelphia area for TE Coach Joe Osovet and IMG Academy for QB Coach Chris Weinke, along with of course recruiting nationally for elite prospects that it can find itself involved with.
Merrill’s commitment also means the Vols will likely be incredibly choosy at WR as they now have two bigtime commitments in him and Jordan Moseley and a greater need for numbers at other positions after signing three studs in 2020 as well as adding walkon former 4-star Mykel Jones as a multi-year transfer. The Vols are of course very much in the mix for the aforementioned instate WRs Mitchell and Curry, and are also bigtime contenders for Top 50 prospect Donte Thornton, recent Notre Dame decommitment Deion Colzie from Athens (same school as Len’neth Whitehead), as well as others like Christian Lewis, Chauncey Magwood and Malcolm Johnson. After signing a bigtime WR class in 2020, 2021 is setting up to be the class in which Pruitt and his staff get the WR room to the level it needs to be to consistently compete for SEC titles.