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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“How would you rate/grade the Vols’ haul of recruits in this early signing period?” – Max
Nathanael: I would easily give it a high B+ if not an A. Pruitt and his staff did a good job keeping on a large chunk of the player who were already committed to Tennessee, and I really like all five of the guys they signed. The only reason I’m hesitant to give it an A is because they didn’t get an instant impact offensive lineman like they need. Jerome Carvin was a huge get, but I don’t expect him to play right away. But they still have a chance to get that type of lineman by February 7th in JUCO tackle Jahmir Johnson.
Will: I’d give them an A. Securing the signatures of Jeremy Banks, Dominick Wood-Anderson and Jordan Allen is pretty good. Jeremy Pruitt still has a lot of work to do, but he didn’t really miss any big time names that were in town last weekend.
“When are we going to hear an actual announcement about who Pruitt has hired as his assistant coaches?” – Tom
Nathanael: My guess would be sometime in January once Alabama’s playoff run is over. So it will happen before National Signing Day, but not too much before it.
Will: I assume that will come once Pruitt returns to Knoxville. I expect an announcement after Bama’s run in the College Football Playoff.
“Do you think any of our current guys declare early for the NFL? – Jacob
Nathanael: Rashaan Gaulden and John Kelly are the most likely candidates to do so, and I wouldn’t blame either for doing so. I don’t think Kelly would be drafted high if he did, but a running back has a more limited shelf life in the NFL than almost every other position. So I can understand him leaving early if so. Gaulden was a standout on an otherwise unimpressive defense for the Vols this year, but he has a chance to increase his stock in Pruitt’s defense too. But he also has a chance of getting injured again too.
Will: I don’t think so. Rashaan Gaulden would be the most likely, but I think there’s a solid chance he stays for one more season. He could improve his draft stock by moving outside to corner instead of nickel. If he could succeed on the outside under Pruitt’s direction, he’d move up some draft boards due to that versatility.
“Who are some of the big names the Vols will be targeting now that the early signing period is over?” – Zach
Nathanael: Three players I for sure think Tennessee will land are wide receiver Jacob Copeland, linebacker JJ Peterson, and JUCO offensive tackle Jahmir Johnson. All three would be huge gets for the Vols, and Johnson especially fills a big position of need. Peterson is one of the best players in the country, and he really likes Pruitt. As does Copeland. I also think the Vols stand a really good chance at landing five-star cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart. They have a decent shot at getting UCLA commit Olaijah Griffin too.
Will: JJ Peterson, Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Olaijah Griffin are the three names to watch. Taylor-Stuart and Griffin are both elite corners who could help the Vols right away. Peterson is the No. 2 outside linebacker in the class of 2018. He was teammates with Jay Blakely and Shawn Shamburger at Colquitt County. And their head coach is Rush Propst, who could be joining the Vols’ staff as well. If Pruitt gets just two out of those three, then it’s a major haul. That looks likely at the moment.
“It’s nearly Christmas. Favorite Christmas song?” – Doug
Nathanael: Mine has to be “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon. I just think it’s a really pretty song with some great lyrics to it.
Will: “Tennessee Christmas” by Amy Grant. I grew up on it. It’s a classic.