In-state defensive end Bill Norton has been committed to the Georgia Bulldogs since March of this year. But Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt isn’t letting that dissuade him from continuing to pursue the four-star, in-state lineman, and Pruitt still believes Norton will one day be a Vol.
According to Austin Price of Volquest, Tennessee’s Rivals.com affiliated site, Pruitt is still making the UGA commit a top priority in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Price made an appearance on The Swain Event morning sports radio show in Knoxville, and he said Pruitt made a bold claim to Norton in a recent conversation.
“Bill Norton, to me, is one that Pruitt has never given up on,” Price told Jayson Swain on his show. “I think that he’s honestly Pruitt’s top guy in the state of Tennessee. I think he’s after Bill Norton, and he’s not going to give up on him. I talked to Bill Norton last night, and he said that Pruitt told him ‘You’re going to be a Vol one day.’ He said ‘I’m not sure what Coach Pruitt has up his sleeve, but he’s made it clear he’s not going to give up, he’s going to continue to recruit me as hard as anybody.’
“I’ll say that’s a big reason why I think Bill Norton will likely visit Tennessee at some point, maybe even as early as the Alabama game.”
Norton hasn’t been on Tennessee’s campus since he took an unofficial visit to Knoxville back on March 17th. The very next day, he announced his commitment to Georgia.
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Norton is the No. 127 overall player and No. 11 strong-side defensive end in the 2019 class. Those rankings also place him second in the state of Tennessee, trailing only wide receiver and Oregon commit Lance Wilhoite. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive end plays for Christian Brothers over in Memphis.
Pruitt is attempting to get Norton to visit Tennessee during the season, and Norton appears to be open to the idea. He’s already taken an unofficial visit to see Ole Miss during the season, and Pruitt clearly has a strong connection with Norton.
But Norton isn’t the only talented in-state player that Pruitt and his staff are trying to flip from another school.
Four-star running back Eric Gray also plays in Memphis, and he’s also committed to another school. Gray, who plays for Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, announced his commitment to Michigan back on July 1st. But Tennessee’s staff has recently made him a bigger focus in their recruiting efforts, and they got Gray to take one of his remaining official visits to see the Vols’ play earlier this year. Gray was one of the many visitors in attendance for the Florida game two weeks ago.
And according to Price, Gray could be swayed by UT’s staff to flip from Michigan in due time.
“I don’t know if Eric Gray will end up at Michigan,” Price told Swain. “I have a hard time seeing that. I think Tennessee can go in there and potentially swing Eric Gray. And real honestly, with their deficiencies on offense with speed right now, I think Eric Gray has become more and more enticing by the day.
“When you look offensively at receiver, they don’t have any real burners. I think Eric Gray becomes really enticing.”
Gray currently plays running back in high school, but he has the tools to be an effective receiver out of the backfield as well. He plays with an athleticism and explosiveness that Tennessee doesn’t really have on the roster right now.
The 247Sports Composite rankings have Gray listed as the No. 219 overall player and No. 3 all-purpose back in the 2019 class. In six games this year, the 5-foot-10, 193-pound back has run for 1,328 yards and 21 touchdowns on just 118 carries according to MaxPreps. Last season, Gray totaled 3,151 rushing yards and 45 scores on 323 carries. He also added 11 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
Tennessee currently has 20 players committed to them in their 2019 recruiting class, but only three of those players currently play in the state of Tennessee. Four-star guard Jackson Lampley, three-star guard Melvin McBride, and three-star defensive tackle Elijah Simmons are the only in-state players currently committed to the Vols.