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Why Quavaris Crouch signed with Vols: 'There's something special brewing'

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SAN ANTONIO — From the outside, it’s easy to look at Tennessee and see turmoil.

The Vols lost six games in 2018 by at least 25 points. They haven’t made a bowl game in three years and still don’t have an offensive coordinator.

And yet, Quavaris Crouch is unfazed about the future on Rocky Top. Actually, he's excited about it.

A man of deep faith, the Charlotte native has long held a different viewpoint of Tennessee and a final trip to Rocky Top just before the Early Signing Period confirmed what the All-American Bowl standout had felt for months.

“You have to be able to believe in what you can’t see,” Crouch’s mentor and former high school coach Sam Griner told VolQuest.

“There’s no proof in it right now that Tennessee is going to be good. You have to believe in it. It’s a feeling you have to have. That’s what he saw in that last visit. That belief became a reality.

“This is where I want to be.”

Tennessee capped off the Early Signing Period with 237 pounds of fireworks, as the nation’s top two-way athlete signed with the Vols over Clemson and Michigan. It was a massive recruiting victory for head coach Jeremy Pruitt, who was able to convince a prospect once ranked No. 1 overall in the country to help spearheaded Tennessee’s turnaround instead of going to a pair of well-established programs.

“Quavaris is a winner,” Pruitt said.

“He is a leader. He is a guy that can play all four linebacker positions. He is a guy that can help change the program.”

Such expectations may scare some prospects. Not Crouch, though.

Four years ago, Crouch was a 200-pound freshman at Harding University in Charlotte. He played running back and linebacker on a team that went 0-12. The next year they won just five games. But in 2017, Crouch and Griner led Harding to the 4A State Championship, as the 4-star standout rushed for more than 3,000 yards and had 14 sacks on defense.

Now, he's ready to make that climb again on Rocky Top.

“I see a lot of opportunity coming to Tennessee being a part of that rebuilding class,” Crouch told VolQuest.

“I’ve rebuilt before, so I’m not scared to go to a program that’s not up there yet. I played at Harding, man. My freshman year we won no games at all. My sophomore year we went to the playoffs and lost. My junior year, we won the whole thing. So I know how to rebuild and change a program.”

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Former Harding University head coach Sam Griner and Tennessee signee Quavaris Crouch.

Pruitt is counting on his first full recruiting class to be the cornerstone of Tennessee’s return to prominence. Crouch is merely one (albeit very big) piece of the puzzle, but Wanya Morris, Eric Gray, Jaylen McCollough, Warren Burrell and others are expected to be foundational additions, too. Crouch became the Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Harding to its first title since 1953, and he sees that same path to success at Tennessee.

“Instead of being a part of a program that’s been there, done that, the guys that start the program that make the turn — even when Alabama wasn’t great it was the Julio Jones’ that made it great — when they come back they’re remembered for making it great and what it is now,” Griner said.

“That resonated with Q. He believes that this group that’s coming to Tennessee is going to be one you remember forever. They’re going to make something special.”

Crouch’s relationships with Pruitt, tight ends coach and area recruiter Brian Niedermeyer and position coach Chris Rumph were crucial in his decision to sign with the Vols over the Tigers. His conversations with Al Wilson and the Vol for Life program were also key factors. But the opportunity — both in terms of actual playing time at linebacker and chance to be part of the narrative of restoring Tennessee’s reputation— tipped the scales in Crouch’s ultimate decision, too.

“Q is very, very (keen) on critical thinking. He has an ability to think deeper than ‘now,’” Griner said.

“That sucker was playing chess, not checkers. He was thinking moves down the road and that’s what was important.

“He don’t think this rebuild is three years down the road. He thinks this year they can win 10 games. He believes that. Then the following year, you could be in the dance or the playoff race. Then you have a chance to beat the Georgia’s and the Florida’s and the Alabama’s head to head. I think they have the solution. They’re building it right up front. Quavaris sees how important it is in the trenches. They got some JUCO d-line guys, they have the best OL in the country coming in. They’re building it the right way.

"There’s something special brewing. You can feel it. Why not be a part of the reason why?”