At this juncture, the Tennessee Volunteers are standing tall in the 2019 recruiting cycle with 20 known commitments and a class that is ranked 15th nationally. The home stretch on the recruiting trail is bound to be whacky and full of action. And with time running low before the early signing period next month, there are certain players that are directly in the crosshairs for the Vols’ coaching staff.
That being said, let’s take a look at some prospects that Tennessee is eyeing that would take its class to the next level…
-What? Outside Linebacker
-Where? Loganville, Georgia. Grayson High School.
-247 Sports Composite ranking: 5-star. No. 11 prospect nationally. No. 1 outside linebacker. No. 3 prospect in Georgia.
-Rivals.com ranking: 5-star. No. 26 prospect nationally. No. 1 outside linebacker. No. 1 prospect in Georgia.
-ESPN ranking: 5-star. No. 6 prospect nationally. No. 1 outside linebacker. No. 1 prospect in Georgia
It’s no secret that Tennessee is in need of speed everywhere on the roster. Coach Jeremy Pruitt has made it clear that he wants to revamp the team’s talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The staff clearly has their sights set on superior athletes and at the top of the wish list is stud linebacker Owen Pappoe. The Vols are actively recruiting Pappoe as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme. But the kicker is that Pappoe is currently a commit to the Auburn Tigers. On the same day that current Vols pledge Wanya Morris committed to UT, Owen Pappoe pledged to the Tigers. But the good news is this: Morris and Pappoe are teammates for the same loaded squad at Grayson High School.
Morris appears to be a rock solid commit to Tennessee and has been in Pappoe’s ear. Heck, the two of them were both in Neyland for the ballgame against the Charlotte 49ers. They were also at the Vols’ game against Auburn on the plains when UT surprised AU and the college football world by winning on the road.
Pappoe is an elite athlete and possesses all the traits you look for in a linebacker. He has the size, the speed, and the physicality. He can play the pass about as well as you can ask for out of a linebacker, but he is also a supreme run stuffer. He runs like a gazelle and plays with disciplined aggression. And all of these traits went into Pappoe being named a consensus All-American.
Again, Pappoe is in the fold at Auburn for the time being and they will definitely not go down without a battle when it comes to his commitment. The Georgia Bulldogs are also lurking in the shadows alongside Tennessee and it will be intriguing to keep tabs on Pappoe’s college choice going forward.
-What? Offensive Tackle
-Where? Huntington, West Virginia. Huntington High School.
-247 Sports Composite: 5-star. No. 10 prospect nationally. No. 2 offensive tackle. No. 1 prospect in West Virginia.
-Rivals.com: 5-star prospect. No. 4 prospect nationally. No. 1 offensive tackle. No. 1 prospect in West Virginia.
-ESPN: 5-star prospect. No. 5 prospect nationally. No. 1 offensive tackle. No. 1 prospect in West Virginia.
What would be better than the commitment of a 5-star offensive lineman like Wanya Morris? A commitment from two 5-star offensive linemen, of course. Darnell Wright is another monster in the trenches that Tennessee is hoping to land. You could make a solid argument that Morris and Wright are the top two offensive tackles in America. Heck, you could make the assertion that they are the top two offensive linemen, period.
Wright is a coach’s dream. ESPN and Rivals have him pegged at 6-foot-6 and right at 300 pounds while 247 Sports lists him at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds. However you slice it, Wright has the size and the measurements that have college coaches drooling. Flash the tape and you see a guy that plays with aggression and a chip on his shoulder. His film is quite literally a pancake block exhibition. His game is fine-tuned both as a pass blocker and a run blocker.
Wright also possesses the fundamentals to go along with his sheer talent. He seemingly never holds and has solid discipline while carving out holes for running backs and buying time for his signal caller.
A crew of college football big boys is in the mix for Wright, in addition to Tennessee. Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma and Oregon are in on him, just to name a few. Pretty much a who’s who of college football programs. Tennessee is close with Wright but Alabama is right there, as well. Many experts believe it’s a two horse race between Vols and Tide.
Some view Wright as a near lock for the Pruitt and Co. but we’ll just have to wait and see how his recruitment unfolds. It will likely go right down to the wire and we all know recruiting is a nutty business and anything can happen.
-What? Wide Receiver
-Where? Charlotte, North Carolina. West Mecklenburg High School.
-247 Sports Composite: 4-star. No. 235 prospect nationally. No. 36 wide receiver. No. 10 prospect in North Carolina.
-Rivals.com: 4-star. No. 40 wide receiver. No. 11 prospect in North Carolina.
-ESPN: 4-star. No. 220 prospect nationally. N. 32 wide receiver. No. 7 prospect in North Carolina.
The Vols already have one wide receiver in the boat with Georgia native Ramel Keyton. Keyton is definitely a top-notch prospect and a talented receiver, but Tennessee has been actively pursuing other wideouts to make their selection on the outside a little more varied. This staff seems to covet speed when it comes to the receiver spot and Khafre Brown seems to really fit that mold.
Brown is an absolute burner but don’t get it twisted, he is not a one trick pony. He is very slithery with the ball in space and he can gash you as a receiver and running the rock out of the backfield.
The recruiting services list Brown somewhere around 6-foot and 170 pounds. His offer list includes schools like North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Oregon.
Guys with speed like Brown do not grow on trees. He was in the house for the Vols’ game against Charlotte and seems to really like everything UT has to offer.
-What? Cornerback/Defensive Back
-Where? Loganville, Georgia. Grayson High School.
-247 Sports Composite: 4-star. No. 172 prospect nationally. No. 20 cornerback. No. 22 prospect in Georgia.
-Rivals.com: 4-star. No. 148 prospect nationally. No. 15 cornerback. No. 18 prospect in Georgia.
-ESPN: 4-star. No. 89 prospect nationally. No. 10 cornerback. No. 12 prospect in Georgia.
Kenyatta Watson is an elite defensive back prospect and a player who is currently projected to be a cornerback at the next level. Watson is and has been a Texas pledge for quite some time now and Tennessee is looking to get him to change his mind. Watson’s Grayson High School connection could really pay dividends for UT since the aforementioned Wanya Morris and Owen Pappoe are both Watson’s high school teammates.
Watson has just what Pruitt covets and that is defensive backs with both size and speed. Rivals and ESPN have Watson listed at 6-foot-2, 183 pounds. He can run like the wind, is a ball hawk who covers lots of ground, and he’s physical at the point of attack. And to boot, he’s a sound tackler too.
Texas is not going to let Watson slip away without a fight. Beyond the Grayson connection, another factor could be UT’s proximity to Watson’s home. Knoxville is much closer to Grayson than Austin, Texas. And, of course, it’s worth mentioning that there are other suitors too, such as Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Arizona, Auburn, Arkansas, and LSU.
It’s anyone’s guess at this juncture where Watson will end up. Tennessee has a very realistic chance but Texas is going to fight, scrap and claw to keep Watson locked down.