The Vols welcomed a new recruiting class on Wednesday, as 21 players signed the papers that will have them a part of the Tennessee family.
This was a group that included ten players from the State Of Tennessee, something Jeremy Pruitt is very proud of. “I believe these 10 guys from this state have a lot of pride in the University of Tennessee, they wanted to represent their home state,” Pruitt said. “They have goals for how they want their next four years to turn out. They’ve really taken it upon themselves to recruit each other and recruit other guys out there. I’m excited to have these guys here. They all have great character, their leaders, and they’re guys that I want to be attached to and (guys) that we want in our program and the guys on our team wanted them in our program. I really believe that these guys will help continue to lay the foundation for years to come.”
This group hit on a lot of needs for the years to come, which will definitely help with depth & some of these players getting on the field early.
Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media this afternoon about the 2020 class. Here’s everything he had to say
“To start with, we’re really excited about the guys that signed with us today. We have 21 signees. This has been a long road. When you think about when we first got here two years ago, we started recruiting a lot of these guys two years out. We’ve built a lot of relationships with them. I think it says a lot about the men on our staff, the people that work in our recruiting department, everybody associated with our program, from administration, to the weight room, nutritionists, athletic training, to the staff over at the Thornton Center in academics, and everybody across campus. When you talk about recruiting, it’s a team effort. We have used all the resources here at Tennessee, from – to start with, our Chancellor – to some of the deans in certain departments. Everybody’s been bought in and has done everything they could to sell this program. Our players, our current players – I can’t say enough about what they’ve done, in the interactions when these guys come to campus and building relationships.
“If you look at our recruiting class, I think you’ve got to start at home base, which is in this state. We have 10 guys that signed with us from this state and they’re from all across the state, from Memphis to East Tennessee. I’m just glad to keep guys here at home.
“When you talk about needs, I think offensively you’ve got to start at the quarterback position. We signed two guys in Harrison Bailey and Jimmy Holiday. Probably, the two guys couldn’t really be any more different when you look at them as football players. Harrison’s a big guy that has a live arm. He really does a lot of things from within the pocket. He actually just led his team to a state championship. He’s a guy that really has anticipation throwing the football. He’s a great leader, captain of his football team. Jimmy Holiday’s a guy that’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s kind of one of these guys that you’re seeing that’s changing the game in pro football right now with his versatility of how he can run the football, different types of run games that he can do. He’s a guy that anytime he has the ball in his hands, has a chance to go the distance for a touchdown.
“At running back, a local guy here in Tee Hodge is a guy that we targeted early on. He came to one of the first camps that we had here. Again, another guy that’s part of a state championship team. He’s a big guy, loves Tennessee and wanted to be here. He’s been a core guy in this class to help recruit. He committed and never wavered the whole time. Len’Neth Whitehead from Athens Academy in Athens, Georgia, is a guy that’s a big athlete. He’s probably 235 pounds but throws the shot (shot put) 69 feet, so that tells you a little bit about his athleticism. Unfortunately, he had an injury this past year and didn’t get to finish, but his high school team has been to the state championship a couple of times over the last few years. Athletes, Jabari Small is a guy from Briarcrest that can play tailback. He can play in the slot. To me, he’s a guy very similar to a guy we signed last year in Eric Gray. He’s used to winning and he’s a guy that can get out of the backfield and create mismatches, a rocket sweep guy, return guy.
“At wide receiver, Jimmy Calloway. Jimmy’s a guy that played a lot of quarterback in high school, a little bit of wildcat. He’s a kick return guy, extremely fast. He has tremendous upside. Any time he touches the ball, he has a chance to score. He really played both sides of the ball in high school, but he’s a guy that we’ll focus on at wide receiver. He’s a very instinctive guy. Jalin Hyatt, from Columbia, South Carolina, is a guy that – I think I saw his record, he’s 51-1-1 as a high school player – so a guy that’s used to winning. He won his fourth consecutive state championship this past year. When you talk about fast, the guy runs a 10.4 in 100 meters. He’s a really good route runner, a guy that committed to our class back in the summer and never wavered the entire time. I don’t think he took another visit. We’re extremely happy about both of those guys.”
“Upfront, starting with a local guy Cooper Mays, a guy that we saw when we first got here. Was playing center, guard and a little bit of defense, but you talk about toughness, knows how to play the game instinctively. Plays with the right leverage up front, a guy that we think has tremendous upside, a guy that could come in here and contribute right away.
“James Robinson from Montgomery, Alabama, is a guy that came to camp this past year so we had a chance to see him work. He played right tackle on his high school team but is a guy that would probably end up being a guard for us. A guy that has power, he’s 6-3 320 pounds and he came here at camp and probably took 60 or 70 reps of one-on-one in about an hour. He took rep after rep which tells you a little bit about his competitive spirit.
“Javontez Spraggins from East St. Louis is another guy that was a part of a state championship team and probably 6-2, 338 pounds. A guy that is extremely athletic and has really good balance and body control and is probably as excited about having a chance to continue his football career in college as anybody I’ve been a part of in recruiting. A guy that is hungry and ready to get here, he’s already been calling today wanting to get the playbook, wanting to get the next workout. He’s a guy that’s used to winning.
“On the defensive side I think you have to start upfront. The first scholarship that we got in today was Omari Thomas out of Briercrest. A guy that can play anywhere up and down the line of scrimmage, he’s 6-4, 300 pounds, a guy that could play defensive end all the way to nose guard. A guy we’ll probably start outside and work our way around but is a guy that can play all three downs. A very good basketball player, also plays tennis, so that tells you what kind of athletic ability he has there.
“Dominic Bailey is a guy that’s been committed to us for a long time out of St. Francis Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. I went and watched these guys practice and I thought it was the Pittsburgh Steelers out there at practice their high school team was so big. The guys he’s practiced against every single day are all guys that are probably going to college, so he’s going to be used to the wear and tear when he gets here. Again, a guy that’s used to winning and was sold on UT from the first day that he got here.
“RJ Perry out of Birmingham, Alabama, is a very unique athlete, he is 6-6, 305 pounds and has 35 inch arms. He played tight end some in high school, played left tackle, played defensive line and also played a little bit of wide receiver. That’s kind of an unusual combination. You go watch him play basketball, a very good basketball player, but a guy that we felt like was exactly what we were looking for when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.
“Tyler Baron, a local product here, is a guy we targeted early on two years ago and we felt like is one of the best players in the country. He has a unique blend of size and speed, is 6-4, 265 pounds that could play all four downs, could probably play up and down the line of scrimmage. He is a guy we see as an outside linebacker. For us, when we are looking for that, we are looking for 4-3 defensive ends, guys that can come off the edge and a guy that can play all three downs.
“Martavius French to me is a guy that can play all four positions. When is comes to linebacker he can play inside or he can play outside. He’s from Memphis, we signed a couple of his teammates and all of these guys, I think in the last two years they’ve only lost two ballgames, but when you talk about hardnose, loving the game and when you go watch this guy play you can see before the ball snaps he knows what play is really coming from the offensive side of the ball. You can tell he studies the game, he knows how to play the plays on defense and is a guy we’re excited about.
“Morven Joseph, we just got his commitment in, is another guy that can play all four spots at linebacker. He has unique ability to rush off the edge, could actually play inside, and will be a great special teams player. He has length, range and is probably going to grow a lot if you look at his build. Has wide shoulders, length, big arms and big hands, so a guy that probably going to add some weight. A guy that can play all four spots, is a playmaker, so when it gets to third down and you’re trying to decide how you are going to play this guy, are you going to rush him off the edge or is he going to be a guy that plays inside and playing on the better running backs in our league?
“When you talk about inside linebackers, (you start with) Bryson Eason. (He’s a) 6-2, 270-pound guy, large man, big hands. You’re talking about a bumping guy that is instinctive and can run from sideline to sideline. Played a lot of ball, had a chance to go watch these guys play this past fall and he’s all over the field. Him and French played on the same high school team and they were tough to get any yards against.
“When you look at defensive backs, Tamarion McDonald is a guy who played again at Whitehaven there in Memphis. One of the Tennessee guys. To me, this is a guy that can play safety, he can play STAR, he’s 6-2, 205 pounds. Big bone density and a guy who can possibly grow into a linebacker, but we will start him off at safety. He will be a phenomenal special teams’ player because he’s a runner, he’s a hitter, has really good ball skills and he’s used to winning.
“Keshawn Lawrence is a guy from Nashville at Ensworth. To me, he’s a guy that can play all five positions. He reminds me of a few guys that I’ve coached over the years that now play in the NFL. He has length, he has great ball skills. When you watch his tape, everything he does is with instincts. He’s a great punt returner, kickoff returner and he’s a guy that committed early in our class and has really been a big part in recruiting the other guys.
“The last guy here is Doneiko Slaughter. We had him in camp this past year, we didn’t offer him at camp, we really thought that he had some unique ability in his cover ability. His hips, his movements is everything were looking for and we wanted to watch his senior tape. He had a phenomenal senior year. He had four defensive touchdowns, was all over the field, a guy who kind of played in the slot like a STAR. He can cover, he has range in the backend, he’s instinctive, he’s a ballhawk and we are excited to have him.
“Last but certainly not least, Will Albright. Will is a guy who played inside linebacker on his high school football team. He’s a long snapper who came to camp two years ago and we felt like he was the best guy at our camp. As a long snapper, we are going to need one next year and he’s a football player. When you look at our class top to bottom, we are excited about them. The guys are used to winning, they are close, they have a group text message going amongst them, and these guys are excited about being here. I can’t say enough about our current players and what they meant to this recruiting class. They’re our best recruiters and they will continue to be that. I’m excited about the foundation of these guys and I can’t wait to get them here and get started with them.”
Tennessee also has a few spots remaining for this class, and I expect them to keep going after a few needs. Either way, this was a really good day for Tennessee football & the years to come.