Jeremy Pruitt certainly faced plenty of challenges as he attempted to assemble the best possible 2018 class for Tennessee.
Now the first-year head coach, the former Alabama defensive coordinator had to fill out his coaching staff, address the bizarre Jauan Jennings’ situation and, oh yeah, he had to put together a recruiting class with an inaugural early signing period that gave him less time to recruit. Welcome to life as a head coach in the SEC.
With all the challenges, it will be understandable if the Vols’ 2018 class lacks some sizzle. It currently ranks No. 20 in the 247 Composite Rankings. That’s not great, but nothing to be ashamed of considering the circumstances.
Here is what the Vols need to do on National Signing Day on Feb. 7 to make the class more appealing:
- More defense
The Vols not only need more defensive talent; they need more defensive talent that will fit Jeremy Pruitt’s style. Remember, this will likely be a complete overhaul defensively for the Vols. Pruitt wants to run a 3-4 defense instead of UT’s former 4-3 defense. That means Pruitt needs to get bigger on defense, especially at cornerback. The Vols could certainly use a big cornerback or two added to their class on Wednesday.
The Vols also need to get bigger at linebacker while not losing athleticism. J.J. Peterson would fit the bill. He’s 6-foot-2 ½ and 231 pounds and a four-star prospect. He’s committed to UT but Alabama has made a strong push. Keeping Peterson or not may be the key story of the day for the Vols on Wednesday.
- More carries
With John Kelly’s decision to enter the NFL Draft, the Vols are suddenly very thin at running back. Ty Chandler is the only returnee with significant playing time. Moreover, Kelly is not the type of running back Pruitt wants. Pruitt is looking for bigger backs like Alabama has featured in the past.
Pruitt has signed Jeremy Banks from Cordova, Tenn., who is 6-2 and 215 pounds. Anthony Grant from Buford (Ga.) High school is currently committed. He is 5-11 and 200 pounds. Both are ranked as three-star prospects. That’s not a bad start but Pruitt wouldn’t mind adding another to the mix.
- Keep Jordan
Jordan Young was largely unknown when he committed to UT recently from Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga. Now, he very well known. Florida State has made a strong push for three-star receiver. This battle will come down to National Signing Day.
If the Vols miss out on Young, they could go with Cedric Tillman from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas or Treveon Johnson from Brenham (Texas) High School. They could even take a combination of the three. However, it would be a shame to miss out on Young when Pruitt’s staff did such a great job of finding him.
- Make a splash
While I seriously doubt there’s a long list of undecided four and five-star prospects hanging in UT’s recruiting office, there is surely a long shot, elite prospect still out there. Landing one would be a feather in Pruitt’s cap. The most likely possibilities seem like receiver Jacob Copeland from Escambia High School in Penasacola, Fla., and cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart from Helix High School in San Diego, Calif. Both are four-star prospects.