The Tennessee Volunteers recruiting efforts for the 2020 class got off to a slower start than many hoped. With expectations high based on a revamped coaching staff with proven recruiting prowess, many fans were disappointed in the early returns on the recruiting trail. However, the rest of June has been kind to the Vols, as they seem to be closing out the month on a bit of a hot streak. Momentum going into the dead period is always important as coaches push to stay in the hunt for blue chip players. Here is a look at the current state of recruiting as well as some key prospects to watch moving forward.
Tennessee Volunteers Recruiting Hot Streak
After some early shakeups to start the off-season, many fans were excited about the new coaching staff. Tennessee had three former national recruiter of the year winners on the staff. This included current reigning recruiter of the year Brian Neidermeyer. Pair this with the promises and expectations set forth by head coach Jeremy Pruitt, and expectations for recruiting moving forward were understandably high.
Be that as it may, as recently as the beginning of June, many were beginning to be concerned about recruiting. To start the month, Tennessee only had five commitments for the 2020 class. It didn’t help that Vol fans had to watch surrounding programs like Clemson, Georgia, and Alabama continue to accrue five star talent. To make matters worse, Tennessee was even losing recruiting battles for highly coveted recruits to Mark Stoops and Kentucky. Fans and media alike were beginning to wonder if the assistant coaching changes had hurt the relationships built with 2020 targets. Tennessee dropped as low as 31st in the 2020 recruiting rankings.
Two pair in Two Weeks
On June 7th, three star guard Javontez Spraggins helped Tennessee break out of their recruiting slump. According to 247Sports, Spraggins is the 57th ranked guard and 17th best from the state if Illinois. The beefy 340 pound guard gives the Vols some depth after a blockbuster 2019 OL class. While he is listed at guard, he has played all interior positions for powerhouse program East St. Louis High, providing a versatile depth player for the class.
— 𝕵𝖆𝖛𝖔𝖓𝖙𝖊𝖟 𝕾𝖕𝖗𝖆𝖌𝖌𝖎𝖓𝖘 (@j_spraggins76) June 7, 2019
Spraggins did not come alone, however. Later that day, his teammate from East St. Louis High School, four star safety Antonio Johnson, also committed to the Vols. 247Sports lists Johnson as the third best player from Illinois and the 11th best player at his position nationally. He also currently holds offers from Alabama and Georgia along with Illinois and Indiana. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has praised Johnson’s film. He has the combination of size and ball skills that Pruitt covets in his secondary, while also delivering hard hits that have become synonymous with Alabama strong safeties. This provided the one-two punch on the recruiting trail Tennessee needed to breath life into the class.
Not even a week later, Tennessee received more good news as it picked up two additional commitments. On June 12th, three star cornerback Lovie Jenkins from Ocoee, FL and two star long snapper Will Abright from Greenville, TN committed within hours of each other, adding a second pair of commitments to Tennessee’s hot streak. Per 247Sports, Albright is the 3rd ranked long snapper in the class. Jenkins, meanwhile, is the 57th ranked corner in the class and the 93rd overall player from the talent rich state of Florida. Another recruit with pure athletic skill, he will be a developmental piece for defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley and Coach Pruitt. Still, he has shown a propensity for explosive plays with the ball in his hands. He could be an immediate impact at returner for the Vols in the future.
Huge Recruiting Weekend in Knoxville
The Vols had made a splash thus far in June, but were still lurking just outside the top 25 in overall class rankings. Cue a huge recruiting weekend for them in which they invited longtime 2020 QB commit Harrison Bailey to campus along with a slew of high profile targets. In today’s day and age of recruiting, peer recruiting seems almost as important as coaches’ recruiting. Bailey has been active and vocal about bringing top talent to Knoxville.
Cooper Mays, Four Star Center
The first commitment of the weekend came from legacy and longtime Vols target Cooper Mays, a four star lineman from Knoxville Catholic. Many Tennessee fans will remember when his older brother Cade spurned the Vols for rival Georgia. Cooper also held offers from Georgia along with Florida and Auburn among others. However, he had seen enough with Tennessee’s new recruiting staff to feel confident enough to commit to Pruitt’s vision and attend his father’s alma mater. Over the past 2 classes, Pruitt has accumulated some of the linemen talent in years. He has prioritized the trenches in a way not seen on Rocky Top since Phillip Fulmer roamed the sidelines. Mays is another key piece in rebuilding the interior of Tennessee’s trenches.
Jordan Mosley, Four Star 2020 Wide Receiver
Two days later, Tennessee added its first piece to the 2021 recruiting class as talented four star receiver Jordan Mosley from Mobile, Al also committed to the Vols. Both parties seemed mutually impressed during Mosley’s visit, leading the Alabama product to commit while on campus. Remember the former recruiter of the year winners mentioned earlier? Mosley’s primary recruiter, Tee Martin, is one such coach on the staff who just happened to be from Mobile as well. Route running and speed are the two top items on Mosley’s scouting report. Tennessee could use some more speed and numbers in the receiving core with several upperclassmen leaving the program after this year.
Keshawn Lawrence, Four Star Safety
With the first piece to the 2021 class committed, the Vols turned their attention back to the 2020 class. The next day, Tennessee fans had more to celebrate, as four star safety Keshawn Lawrence chose the Vols over programs such as Miami and LSU. Lawrence instantly became Tennessee’s highest rated commitment in the 2020 class, usurping the aforementioned Harrison Bailey. Lawrence is the 63rd ranked player nationally and the 2nd ranked player in the state of Tennessee. It was critical for Tennessee to get this Nashville product from their own backyard, and for the time being it seems they have succeeded. He announced the commitment in memorable fashion via Twitter:
— KE(Y)SHAWN LAWRENCE 💰C❌C (@KeShawn2x) June 24, 2019
Lawrence’s film shows excellent awareness and an explosive propensity for making plays in the secondary. Two way athletes are always desirable to Pruitt, possibly stemming from his days as a high school coach. Lawrence’s elite athleticism and ball skills are indicative of just that. With a standout senior year, he could be one to watch to grow into a five star prospect. He should contribute from day one should he sign with the Vols in the end.
Prospects to Watch Moving Forward
Harrison Bailey Working Hard
There are a few prospects to watch moving forward as well as Pruitt looks to add to the Tennessee Volunteers recruiting class. As stated, 2020 QB commit Harrison Bailey is working hard to bring other blue chip prospects to Knoxville. He was at the 2020 Rivals 5-Star Challenge this week selling Pruitt’s program. He seems to have his eyes set on Tennessee target and current LSU commit Rakim Jarrett. Jarrett is a 5 star prospect, the 3rd ranked receiver, and 19th ranked overall player nationally in the 247Sports composite. At one time considered a Tennessee lean, he is heating back up on the Vols despite committing to LSU in late April. His official visit this past weekend only accelerated rumors of a potential flip to the Vols.
Bailey also continued to sell the Vols to uncommitted four star defensive end BJ Ojualari and five star tight end and Georgia lean Arik Gilbert. While Gilbert still trends high on Georgia, Tennessee has made up some ground recently. Former teammate and 2019 recruit Ramel Keyton and current teammate and 2020 recruit Bailey are in his ear regarding Tennessee. It will be tough to keep him away from the in-state Bulldogs, but Tennessee has developed quite the relationship with the coaching staff at Marrietta High. Getting Gilbert to commit to the Vols would be quite the coup for Pruitt and company.
Commit Watch and Other Interesting Prospects
Tennessee could receive news on several prospects in the near future. One such prospect would be four star wide receiver Ze’Vian Capers. Capers will be committing July 1st at the Opening. Haynes King is also a four star quarterback who could provide a shakeup to Tennessee’s class. How will Harrison Bailey react to the competition? Will that affect the relationships Bailey has built with the 2020 class? That will be a key concern for Pruitt to address should he add a second quarterback to the class. In state 4 star guard prospect Chris Morris seemed to leave campus this weekend impressed with Tennessee’s staff, raving over offensive line coach Will Friend. Morris is the 2 ranked guard in the 2020 class and the third ranked recruit in Tennessee.
Other names to watch for Tennessee Volunteers recruiting efforts include four star defensive tackle Darrion Henry from Ohio, four star receiver and current Ole Miss commit Kris Abrams-Draine from Alabama, and number 1 prospect from the state of Tennessee Reggie Grimes, a high end four star defensive end.
Tennessee is working hard to lure these blue chip prospects away from other top programs. The recent recruiting momentum may be enough to win them over. The recent surge in recruiting has helped Tennessee finally break into the top 25. Can the Vols secure another top 15 class with a few of the aforementioned prospects to watch? We will have to see how things shape up before the dead period and fall into line moving into SEC media days and fall camp after. Still, the recent hot streak in Tennessee Volunteers recruiting should get fans excited.
After all, in state prospect Chris Morris may have said it best….
The always colorful Chris Morris, the nation's No. 31 recruit, said the Vols "definitely stamped their spot" after OV just before the dead period.
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) June 24, 2019