4 big-time recruits the Vols are still chasing

Photo Credit: Christopher Russell on Twitter

We have officially hit the home stretch of the 2019 recruiting process, as the second National Signing Day quickly approaches. Yes, a large slew of recruits opted to sign early, but there are still some major targets left on the board for the Vols. Let’s take a look at four players that are still in the crosshairs for the Big Orange going forward.

Darnell Wright

  • Offensive tackle
  • From Huntington, West Virginia (Huntington High School)
  • 247 Sports Composite Ranking: 5-star. No. 10 prospect nationally. No. 1 offensive tackle. No. 1 prospect in West Virginia.
  • Rivals.com Ranking: 5-star. No. 1 offensive tackle. No. 1 prospect in West Virginia.
  • ESPN Ranking: 5-star. No. 5 prospect nationally. No. 3 offensive tackle. No. 1 prospect in West Virginia.

Simply put, Darnell Wright is the biggest fish Jeremy Pruitt is pursuing as we head into the final stretch for the class of 2019. Wright is an elite offensive tackle and there’s a good reason why he was invited to participate in the Opening Finals along with the Under Armour All-American game. Wright stands at a towering 6-foot-6 and is around the 320-pound mark. He plays with a disciplined ferocity and seemingly has a constant chip on his shoulder while on the gridiron. Oh, and he’s polished as a run blocker and a pass protector.

There is no shortage of suitors in the Darnell Wright sweepstakes. Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State are all in the hunt and his offer sheet contains a laundry list of big boys from around the college football world. Many recruiting gurus are under the impression that the Vols are in the driver’s seat for Wright. He has visited Knoxville a handful of times and is familiar with the program, the coaches and the campus. Wright is also buddies with many of Tennessee’s 2019 signees and you simply can’t understate how massive it would be for Jeremy Pruitt and Co. pick up his commitment.

Henry To’oto’o

  • Outside Linebacker
  • From Concord, California (De La Salle High School)
  • 247 Sports Composite: 4-star. No. 41 prospect nationally. No. 2 outside linebacker. No. 5 prospect in California.
  • Rivals.com: 4-star. No. 71 prospect nationally. No. 3 inside linebacker. No. 8 prospect in California.
  • ESPN: 4-star. No. 52 prospect nationally. No. 4 outside linebacker. No. 7 prospect in California.

It’s evident that Coach Pruitt is not afraid to swing for the fences and recruit prospects that are being courted by other big-time programs. Pruitt’s calling card is his ability to identify and develop defensive prospects and California native Henry To’oto’o would be a huge shot in the arm for the Volunteers’ defense. To’oto’o is a consensus top 100 player and appears to be a can’t miss prospect.

He currently holds offers from schools such as Alabama, Tennessee, Oregon, Utah, Washington, California, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and USC. UT and the Tide seem to be the two programs duking it out for To’oto’o. He has developed a tight relationship with Alabama assistant coach Tosh Lupoi but the Vols have been a constant factor in this recruitment and they won’t go quietly. Also, there have been rumblings that Lupoi might fly the coop and find employment outside of Tuscaloosa, but we’ll have to just wait and see what happens.

To’oto’o possesses the physical ability to play OLB in a 3-4 defense and also ILB. He can stuff the run but is fast enough to get the job done in pass coverage. To’oto’o is viewed as a guy that would be an instant contributor but as long as Lupoi remains with the Tide, it will a bit of an uphill battle to get him to Knoxville.

George Pickens

  • Wide receiver
  • From Hoover, Alabama (Hoover High School)
  • 247 Sports Composite: 4-star. No. 36 prospect nationally. No. 7 wide receiver. No. 3 prospect in Alabama.
  • Rivals.com: 5-star. No. 9 prospect nationally. No. 3 wide receiver. No. 1 prospect in Alabama.
  • ESPN: 4-star Wide Receiver. No. 80 in America. No. 10 wide receiver. No. 5 prospect in Alabama.

The Vols already have two wide receivers in the fray for the class of 2019. 3-star prospect Jerrod Means and four-star Ramel Keyton are already signed and locked in. But, the Tennessee staff is actively pursuing blue-chip wideout George Pickens, who has been committed to Auburn since July of 2017.

Pickens is a tall, rangy, athletic receiver. He has the size, at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, but he also has the speed to be a serious threat for defensive backs. Despite being a pledge for the Tigers, Pickens holds offers from many schools including Tennessee, LSU, and Alabama. Pruitt is looking to revamp the receiving corps with versatile athletes who possess serious speed and physicality. Pickens fits this mold. It will be a tall task to flip him from Auburn but the Vols will give it their best effort.

Christopher Russell

  • Inside Linebacker
  • From Dyersburg, Tennessee (Dyersburg High School)
  • 247Sports Composite: 3-star. No. 1,216 prospect nationally. No. 53 inside linebacker. No. 38 prospect in Tennessee.
  • Rivals.com: 3-star. No. 27 prospect in Tennessee.
  • ESPN Ranking: 3-star. No. 27 inside linebacker. No. 35 prospect in Tennessee.

Tennessee got a huge coup in the early signing period with the addition of freak athlete Quavaris Crouch, who intends to play linebacker at UT. The Vols are now setting their sights on Christopher Russell, an in-state linebacker from Dyersburg. Russell is somewhat of a late bloomer who has burst on the scene as of late. There are four SEC programs in the hunt for him. Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Texas A & M are all doing their best to land Russell. Memphis, Georgia Tech, and Middle Tennessee are also pursuing him, among others.

Russell weighs in around 220 pounds and stands at 6-foot-2. He has the frame to pack on additional weight with the help of a quality college strength program. Take a look at his tape and you see a guy who flashes athleticism as well as major physicality. Russell has largely flown under the radar but he’s definitely a guy who has the potential to morph into a solid collegiate player.