J.J. Peterson has become more of a myth than an actual football player in the eyes of Tennessee fans. The Vols’ highest-rated signee in the 2018 recruiting class is the last member of the Vols’ roster still not on campus. He missed all of the summer as he attempted to finish up some academic qualifications, and thus far he’s yet to make it on campus during fall camp either.
Every day, Vol fans grow more anxious about Peterson’s absence, and many have assumed he just won’t make it on to the Vols’ roster for this year.
But according to head coach Jeremy Pruitt, the four-star linebacker is still set to join the Vols.
“He’s finishing up a class, and when he gets the class finished up he’ll be here,” Pruitt said after the Vols’ second scrimmage of the fall on Saturday.
Peterson was the gem of Pruitt’s first recruiting class with Tennessee. He was ranked No. 48 overall and was the third-best outside linebacker in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. But unlike almost every other player in Tennessee’s 2018 class, he’s yet to join UT’s roster.
But Pruitt remains confident that the talented linebacker will still make it to campus and be part of the Vols’ 2018 team. Though Pruitt admits himself that he would’ve liked this all to have been taken care of earlier.
“Would we have liked for it to have been last week? Absolutely,” Pruitt added. “But that’s part of it. You gotta do it, and he’s working hard to do it.”
Classes start for the university on August 23rd, meaning this upcoming week is likely the deadline for Peterson to make it in to UT. If he doesn’t end up making it in, Peterson will join four-star defensive lineman Brant Lawless as academic casualties in Tennessee’s 2018 class. Lawless was granted a release from his National Letter of Intent from UT back in July and ultimately enrolled at North Carolina.
The Vols’ depth at linebacker for 2018 isn’t a huge concern, but the depth at that unit moving forward into next season and beyond is a little sketchier. Tennessee only has two seniors in their linebacking corps heading into this season, but they have five juniors currently playing linebacker.
Tennessee needs all the play-makers they can get on defense for the future. And getting Peterson eligible for this season and prepared as soon as possible is a huge priority for Pruitt and his staff.
Peterson is cutting it awfully close right now, and he’s very much at risk of not being part of UT’s 2018 roster. But Pruitt remains optimistic his top recruit in his first signing class will be a Vol.