It's time for the 3-2-1 report. Three observations, two questions and a prediction as the Vols find themselves inside the Top 30 in recruiting rankings with recruiting visits set to resume on January 12th.
Three things we learned as the Vols recruited quickly in the month of December:
Jeremy Pruitt and his staff are looking for immediate help – In their big recruiting weekend in December, Pruitt and his staff entertained six junior college players on visits. And they are recruiting more. The highlight of their junior college work to date has been the signings of four-star defensive end Jordan Allen and Dominick Wood-Anderson, the top JUCO tight end in the country. Pruitt is inheriting a rebuild, particularly in the line of scrimmage and clearly he's looking to speed that process up by working the junior college ranks.
Casting a wide net – Phillip Fulmer told Volquest that in basically a matter of of hours they tripled their recruiting board. Hourly it seemed in Pruitt's first two weeks on the job, Tennessee was offering new players. The number of offers will continue to grow. That number will grow exponentially in the class of 2019.
Pruitt and company's work in December offers hope – In his opening press conference, Pruitt cautioned fans to not get caught up in the news of the early signing period.
"One thing that I've figured out in recruiting is you worry about the ones that you get, you don't worry about the ones you don't,” Pruitt said. “That's the most important, so that's what we'll do. We'll target, we'll have critical factors at every position. For instance, at defensive back we're going to look for guys that have size, speed, they can play the ball in the deep part of the field, they can open their hips and tackle, they've got the ability to play man-to-man. Every position we'll have critical factors. The next thing you've got to go to is, what's their intangibles? Are they leaders? Are they dependable? Do they have any kind of issues? Because you've kind of got to go through that and make sure. So, I want to make sure in the next 10 days that we don't sign somebody that doesn't fit that. I'd rather wait and find a guy that we know for sure fits what we're looking for here. So, I'm going to tell you right now, don't get all out of whack at this early signing period if you look out there.
But Tennessee made the biggest move of anyone in the early signing period. And that move was big enough to give Vol fans plenty of optimism and hope about not just the class of 2018, but the future of landing talent on Rocky Top by Pruitt and his staff.
Two questions heading into January recruiting:
1 – Can the Vols keep momentum?
With the biggest jump of anyone in the Rivals rankings and the most impressive early work of any of the new hires in college football, Tennessee currently has plenty of momentum. The question is can that momentum continue with big name recruits like JJ Peterson, Olaijah Griffin, Jacob Copeland, Nikko Hall or even a guy like Isaac Taylor-Stuart.
Tennessee will be working the phones hard between now and January 12th when you can get back on the road, into schools and homes as well as having prospects on your campus. With Griffin and Copeland there is no on-campus opportunity left. Can they keep Tennessee fresh on their minds while they visit other schools?
And the key to that momentum is in the line of scrimmage where the Vols really can't sign enough bodies. Which is why Wednesday could be big for the Vols as junior college offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson is scheduled to announce his college choice. He visited Tennessee December 15th and has been planning on taking three more visits in January.
2 – Is California the new Florida?
Fulmer's philosophy as head coach and frankly it's been the Tennessee way going back to General Neyland and that is you go where the players are.
Yes, there are plenty of prospects in Florida and in Georgia, but those are two of the mostly hotly recruited states in the country, and man, prospects from those states signed early. In his time at Tennessee, Fulmer had a great deal of success in recruiting the state of California. Derek Dooley and Butch Jones opted not to pursue many prospects in that state during their tenures. In just a couple of weeks on the job, Pruitt has already landed a quarterback in J.T. Shrout along with Allen. Tennessee is involved with Hall, Griffin, and Taylor-Stuart. The Vols are working the class of 2019 in California as well, recently offering De La Salle linebacker Henry To'oto'o, tight end Isaiah Foskey and even Seattle, Wa. offensive lineman Nathaniel Kalepo.
It's clearly obvious that Tennessee's work on the west coast is not a one year scramble, but more a return to a philosophy that has produced solid results for the program in the past.
One prediction: Tennessee will finish in the top 20
Of the 27 teams ranked ahead of the Vols, 21 of them have 20 commitments/signees or more. In the Rivals ranking system, a team's 20 highest ranked signees are used to determine the point total. Tennessee current total sits at 16 commitments/signees. So just in volume alone, Tennessee is going to move up the rankings. Throw in the fact that Tennessee could close with several higher ranked players than they have committed or signed at this point and the Vols could continue to make a move in the rankings.
Tennessee moved up nearly 40 spots on early national signing day.