Comparing Pruitt’s First Early Signing Class to This Year’s

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    Last year, Jeremy Pruitt was hired as Tennessee’s head coach and had less than two weeks to try and piece together an early signing class in the 2018 cycle. He was also juggling duties as Alabama’s defensive coordinator as the Tide prepared for the College Football Playoffs.

    When it was all said and done, Pruitt and his still-unfinished coaching staff were able to sign 14 players in the first ever early signing period in college football. Tennessee signed eight of the 11 players who were committed to them prior to the signing period, and they added six new players to their 2018 class too.

    This year, Tennessee wasn’t so helter skelter around the early signing period.

    Pruitt and his staff were actually able to have a much better, more well-organized plan around this year’s early signing period in December, and it showed. The Vols hauled in 19 signatures during last week’s early signing process, keeping all but four of their 20 prior commits and adding three newcomers, including four-star running back Eric Gray and four-star athlete Quavaris Crouch.

    And they did all that without having an offensive coordinator on staff.

    The Vols’ 2019 early signing class boasts more star power and potential immediate impact players than last year’s class, but Tennessee’s 2018 early signing class was impressive all its own considering the time crunch and who the Vols were able to sign.

    Let’s take a look at how the two classes compare.

    In 2018, Tennessee signed five players rated as four-stars by 247Sports. In 2019, the Vols received signatures from one five-star (Wanya Morris) and seven four-stars. While the 2018 class wasn’t as loaded with stars, there were several players who signed with the Vols in December of last year who ended up playing significant roles for Tennessee this past season.

    Four of UT’s 14 early signees were part or full-time starters for the Vols this past season (Alontae Taylor, Jahmir Johnson, Jerome Carvin, Dominick Wood-Anderson), and two others played vital roles either as backups or on special teams (Jeremy Banks, Paxton Brooks).

    One of Tennessee’s early signees in the 2018 class never made it to campus (Brant Lawless), and another (Tanner Antonutti) has now had to medically retire.

    It’s obviously too early to tell who will be instant contributors for the Vols in their 2019 class, but there are several signees who project to be starters and key backups for UT in their 2019 early signing class.

    Tennessee signed three JUCO players in the 2018 early signing period, and they ended up signing two junior college prospects in the December signing period this year.

    Only two of the Vols’ 14 early signees in the 2018 class were ranked inside the top-200 overall players on 247Sports, but five of UT’s 19 signees this December were ranked inside the top-200 prospects. Excluding JUCO players, only four of the Vols’ 11 high school prospects they signed in the 2018 early period were ranked in the top-500 overall players. By comparison, the Vols’ 2019 class boasts 11 players ranked inside the top-500 overall prospects.

    Here’s a look at who the Vols signed in their 2018 early signing class:

    Alontae Taylor, WR/ATH
    Greg Emerson, DT
    Dominick Wood-Anderson, JUCO TE
    Jordan Allen, JUCO DE
    Brant Lawless, DT
    Jerome Carvin, OL
    Jeremy Banks, RB
    Jahmir Johnson, JUCO OT
    JT Shrout, QB
    Jacob Warren, TE
    Tanner Antonutti, OT
    Ollie Lane, OG
    Kingston Harris, DT
    Paxton Brooks, P

    And here’s who Tennessee signed in the 2019 early signing period:

    Wanya Morris, OT
    Quavaris Crouch, ATH
    Ramel Keyton, WR

    Jaylen McCollough, S
    Eric Gray, RB
    Tyus Fields, CB
    Jackson Lampley, OG
    Jackson Lowe, TE
    Roman Harrison, DE
    Savion Williams, JUCO DT
    Melvin McBride, OG
    Brian Maurer, QB
    Aaron Beasley, ATH
    Warren Burrell, CB
    Darel Middleton, JUCO DT
    Sean Brown, TE
    Elijah Simmons, DT
    Chris Akporoghene, OT
    Jerrod Means, WR



    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.