When you recruit, you have to balance filling needs with targeting top talent. Its a tough act, especially when youre rebuilding a program. But with an unforgettable first day of the early signing period for Tennessee football, Jeremy Pruitt just got the freedom to only focus on one of those things.
Yes, the excitement of the day that brought about a flip and two four-star commitments cant be ignored. UT now has a top 10 class on Rivals, something nobody probably saw coming before the day began. But whats most important is that the Vols now have a rock solid foundation underneath them in the future.
Given the state of the program right now and what Pruitt is trying to build, depth and quality players at every position were more important than anything else. Those are the two things that have plagued the Vols so far. Pruitt made sure he took care of those two things.
With all but two players not signing, both of whom are three-stars, Pruitt now has 21 guys already locked in for next year. And their versatility along with the variety of players he picked makes sure UT wont have the same depth issues heading into the future.
So what does that all mean? Well, as National Signing Day approaches, Tennessee football can focus all its energy on targeting top guys just to boost the talent of the program. That includes potentially flipping four-star defensive tackle Jay Hardy, who is from Chattanooga but committed to the Auburn Tigers and didnt sign.
It also may include targeting five-star Las Vegas tight end Darnell Washington, who at least didnt publicly sign with anybody on Wednesday. The Vols will have to fight the Georgia Bulldogs for him, but with Brian Niedermeyer, anything is possible.
There are plenty of other elite prospects they could make a run for as well that we may not even know about yet. Whats clear, though, is they dont have to focus on need. If you look at what Pruitt has done, he has filled the roster up everywhere.
Part of Pruitts class was two defensive tackles and three edge rushers. With six scholarship defensive linemen set to be on the roster beyond 2020, those two tackles make it eight, so hes really built things up there.
Meanwhile, with Darrell Taylor leaving, three new edge rushers plus Roman Harrison and Kivon Bennett really builds up the depth there. At linebacker, three four-star commitments really sets up the future of the position.
So the defensive front seven is set. Pruitt already scored big in the secondary last year, but he added two more four-stars there this year, and he has two athletes who could play the position, albeit one unsigned. Another one, Jimmy Holiday, was a flip from the TCU Horned Frogs who can play receiver or quarterback as well and runs a 4.38 40-time.
Speaking of receivers and quarterbacks, Pruitt still has Cedric Tillman and Ramel Keyton for the long-term future. But he also added two four-stars in this class, including Jimmy Calloway, who signed Wednesday despite late pushes from the Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats. Add in the potential of Holiday going there, and hes restocking that area too.
Quarterback speaks for itself with four-star Harrison Bailey, giving Pruitt three guys at least on the roster beyond 2020. What about offensive line? Well, hes loaded up there the past two years, but four more linemen signed on Wednesday, and theres a fifth unsigned commit. With seven scholarship players set to be on UTs line beyond 2020, they have depth there as well.
Then theres running back. Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Carlin Fils-Aime will all be seniors. But one athlete signee who committed Wednesday, LenNeth Whitehead, prefers playing running back, and hes a power back at 62 232 pounds. Maryville signee Tee Hodge is another power back, and Jabari Small is an all-purpose back.
Combine those three with freshman Eric Gray, and Tennessee football is set to have two power backs and two all-purpose backs beyond 2020. Thats a big deal for Pruitt and shows just how much he has built up the depth.
Oh, and the versatility of so many players helps as well. Just the five signees from Wednesday cover all the positions on the field. Thats why the early signing period was such a win for Rocky Top. Now, being able to focus just on getting top guys will be a huge boost.
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