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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“In your opinion, who are some in-state recruits that we should go after for the 2019 class?” – @EastGA_VOL1
Nathanael: Luckily for Tennessee, there are some really talented players in the 2019 class in the state of Tennessee once again. To me, it all starts with the receivers and corners in this class. The top-rated player in the state is Lance Wilhoit, and he’s a receiver out of Nashville. Shamar Nash of Memphis, Trey Knox of Murfreesboro, Kendrell Scurry of Independence, and TJ Sheffield of Independence should be targeted at receiver. Maurice Hampton, a corner out of Memphis, is already committed to LSU but should be targeted still. Other corners are Wesley Walker and Woodie Washington. Both are from the mid-state.
Will: Wilhoit will certainly be the top target. I think Tennessee feels pretty good about its chances there. Knox might be the second target out of those mentioned. He’s a guy who could help out right away given his size. He’s 6-foot-4, which would give UT much needed size down the field. This is one of the strongest in-state classes in recent memory. 247sports has 18 4-star athletes in the state of Tennessee next year. The 2018 class only had 11 4-star athletes in the state of Tennessee.
“Is the basketball team getting 4 and 5 star recruits? I believe we are one star away from being a championship contender even with a young sophomore squad.” – Alex
Nathanael: The one big name to watch in the Vols’ 2018 class is Anfernee Simons, a five-star guard at the IMG Academy. If Tennessee can’t land him, I don’t know if the Vols get a really highly-rated player in the 2018 class. They only have one scholarship available in this class, so they’re being picky with it (as they should).
Will: They haven’t really tried that hard to get that kind of player. And I don’t blame them. Rick Barnes has built a solid foundation of scheme fits to start his rebuild. Now that the foundation is there, he’s ready to go after a one-and-done. Simmons would fit that mold perfectly. I think they’re one elite post player away from being elite.
“Will John Kelly return? Gaulden too? Are we going to lose anymore OL through medicals or transfer??” – @cthvolfan
Nathanael: I wouldn’t be surprised if either declared early, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if they came back. I think both could improve their draft stock if they returned for another year, but I wouldn’t blame them if they left early and wanted to get that NFL contract too. And as far as the offensive line: I don’t think any of them will take a medical redshirt for 2018, but there’s always the possibility of transfer. I think they all stay, however.
Will: I would be surprised if both Gaulden and Kelly declared for the draft. Out of the two, I think that Gaulden is more likely to head to the NFL. Kelly needs more time to prove that he’s an every down back. And I think he’ll be back next season. I expect Chance Hall to return after his lost season due to injury. But if there’s one guy who isn’t coming back on the line, he’s certainly most likely to head elsewhere.
“Which QB do you believe is the best fit to run Pruitt’s pro style offense?” – @The_Vol_Nation
Nathanael: That’s a really good question. I think if he’s healthy, it may honestly be Dormady. But I do like some of the passing I saw from Guarantano, and I think he has better mechanics. I think these QBs will look a lot better with an actual quarterbacks coach on the staff and helping them out. I’m intrigued to see how different they look this next season.
Will: I think calling it a pro style offense is a bit of a reach. This is a multiple offense. And Pruitt made it clear in his introductory press conference that he’ll cater his offense to his team’s strengths. That points to Guarantano being the guy. I’d be shocked if he isn’t the piece Pruitt builds around on the offense.
“Could Pruitt recruit at the same or a higher level than Kirby smart?” – Brayden
Nathanael: I think it’s a little early to call Smart a recruiting wizard, but what he’s done with this 2018 class has been nothing short of extremely impressive. He’s helping Georgia out-recruit Alabama right now. I don’t know if Pruitt will be able to get to the same level as either Saban or Smart, but I think he’ll be able to recruit at a higher level at Tennessee than the Vols have seen in a while. And I think he has a much better chance of having sustained recruiting success than Jones did.
Will: Ask me again in a couple years. He’s off to a good start, but no one can answer this question yet.
“Do we have any five star possibilities in February that would help us climb in the recruiting ranks?” – @volfan3436
Nathanael: The only actual five-star that Tennessee is in on is Isaac Taylor-Stuart. I was a little higher on the Vols’ chances of landing him last week, but I’m not so sure now. I don’t think Tennessee lands an actual five-star if they don’t get him, but they’re in on several highly-rated four-stars and top-50 and top-150 players in the class.
Will: If Tennessee can get two out of the trio of JJ Peterson, Olaijah Griffin and Taylor-Stuart, then it’s a successful recruiting window. The ceiling for this class is probably top 15, which is pretty good considering the circumstances.