Tennessee figures to pursue several highly-rated players in the 2018 class over the next month and a half till National Signing Day on February 7th. New Vol head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his new Vol staff were able to salvage together a solid haul during the early signing period, and they’re targeting some of the nation’s top players to sign in February.
And one of those prospects has named the Vols his leader.
JJ Peterson, the No. 2 outside linebacker in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, has been an Alabama lean for months and has been considered one of the Tide’s top targets in their 2018 class. But now that Jeremy Pruitt is the head coach at Tennessee, things have changed for Peterson.
According to an interview with Chris Kirschner of SEC Country, Peterson now has the Vols as his favorite because of Pruitt.
“There’s no coach in college football who Peterson is closer to than Pruitt,” Kirschner writes. “That’s mainly because of Rush Propst, Colquitt County’s coach, is close with Pruitt. Pruitt was Propst’s defensive coordinator at Hoover High School before being hired at Alabama.”
Peterson plays for Colquitt County in Moultrie, Georgia. He’s the No. 43 overall player in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, and he has a strong relationship with the Vols’ new coach. And Pruitt isn’t the only Tennessee coach whom Peterson has a connection with.
“Because Pruitt is no longer in Tuscaloosa, Peterson considers Tennessee, a school he hasn’t visited yet, his leader,” Kirschner states. “Pruitt hired Georgia outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer to be the Volunteers’ defensive coordinator. That also has an effect on Peterson because Sherrer was his primary recruiter at Georgia.”
And according to Peterson himself, those relationships are why Tennessee has now supplanted Alabama as his favorite.
“I have a strong connection with Coach Pruitt and Coach Sherrer,” Peterson told Kirschner. “I also have two former teammates there (Shawn Shamburger and Jay Blakely). I know people there. Coach Pruitt leaving has changed the whole game for me.”
Alabama had been Peterson’s favorite for months. Nick Saban and his staff consider Peterson one of their top targets in their class, and it’s believed he’s their No. 1 linebacker on their board for the 2018 class.
When asked about Saban and Alabama, Peterson said the Tide are still one of his favorites. But he maintains that Tennessee is now the team to beat.
“They’re up there, but you know Tennessee has to be on top for me now,” Peterson stated.
Peterson hasn’t visited a school since the summer when he visited Auburn back in July. But he has five official visits remaining between now and National Signing Day, and the Vols figure to be one of the schools to get a visit.
As a senior, Peterson racked up 110 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss, five sacks, three fumble recoveries, and two pass breakups.
Tennessee will have to wait till National Signing Day to see where Peterson ends up. But right now, it appears they have a great chance of landing the elite linebacker.