The Vols’ 2019 Class is Good, but 2020 Class Needs to be Great

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    Tennessee hauled in some very impressive prospects in their 2019 signing class. The Vols signed 19 players in December, and they added another two signees and another commitment on National Signing Day. That makes their total signees right at 21 for the 2019 cycle. Their class currently has 23 players in it including four-star safety Anthony Harris and three-star cornerback Kenney Solomon as commits and potential blueshirts.

    Of those signees, 12 of them are four-stars or better. The Vols’ class is headlined by a duo of five-star offensive linemen, Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright. As long as injuries don’t befall them, those two should be a solid bedrock for Tennessee’s offensive line to build upon for the coming years.

    Not only does Tennessee welcome in those two stud linemen, but the class is littered with potential instant-impact type of players. Four-star athlete Quavaris Crouch has the potential to find playing time at linebacker as a true freshman, as does four-star Henry To’oto’o. Four-star safety Jaylen McCollough should find a role in 2019, four-star defensive end/linebacker Roman Harrison will likely see the field plenty, and four-star running back Eric Gray will get playing time on offense and maybe special teams, too.

    Junior college defensive linemen Savion Williams and Darel Middleton will be asked to make an immediate impact in 2019, and they’ll both have plenty of opportunity to do so.

    Four-star tight end Jackson Lowe has the perfect chance to burst into the two-deep at tight end, and don’t overlook someone like three-star Aaron Beasley or Chris Akporoghene either.

    Tennessee’s 2019 class has a number of potential play-makers all throughout it. But as good as this class looks, especially coming off a 5-7 season and Jeremy Pruitt’s first year as a head coach, it’s still not good enough to get the Vols back to where they need to be.

    The Vols’ 2019 class is good, but it’s not good enough. It can be both. That’s the unique nature of recruiting. It’s good enough to improve Tennessee’s roster and provide a solid first step in the rebuilding effort. But it’s not that “elite” level class that UT needs to compete with the top teams in their league.

    UT’s coaches missed out on bringing in some other potential instant-impact players in this class. Every coach is going to have some misses, but the prospects that Tennessee missed on could’ve really helped Tennessee in 2019 and beyond. That includes players like four-star defensive ends Justin Eboigbe and Khris Bogle, five-star linebacker Owen Pappoe, four-star linebacker Trezmen Marshall, and five-star wide receiver George Pickens.

    Tennessee also swung and missed on in-state targets such as four-star defensive end Joseph Anderson, four-star defensive end Bill Norton, and four-star linebacker Kane Patterson.

    The Vols had so many glaring needs in the 2019 cycle that they weren’t going to be able to fill them all in just one class. They did a good job of addressing their most dire need on the offensive line, and the defensive line was added to pretty thoroughly as well. UT’s linebacking corps got an upgrade, and Tennessee added more speed at a number of positions.

    But for as good as Tennessee’s 2019 class is, it still finished seventh among SEC schools according to the 247Sports rankings.

    Tennessee’s 2019 signing class placed 12th in the country on 247Sports, finishing ahead of teams like Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Washington. But Tennessee doesn’t play those teams on a yearly basis. They do play teams like Alabama, Georgia, and Florida every year, though.

    And the Vols failed to make up a ton of ground on those teams when you look at the class rankings.

    The Vols’ 2019 class finished behind Alabama’s, Georgia’s, Texas A&M’s, LSU’s Florida’s, and Auburn’s in the SEC. The Tide and Bulldogs pulled in the No. 1 and No. 2 recruiting classes respectfully, and Florida hauled in the No. 9 class.

    We all know that recruiting rankings aren’t the end-all be-all, but more often than not they’re an indicator of how successful a program is and will be.

    Now, Tennessee did gain ground on the other teams they compete against in the SEC. The Vols’ 2019 class finished higher than South Carolina’s, Missouri’s, Kentucky’s, and Vanderbilt’s. Tennessee lost to three of those four schools last season, and they have just a 3-9 record against those four teams over the last three seasons.

    Tennessee took steps in the right direction, and it appears they’ve plugged up several holes in their sinking ship. But the 2020 class needs to be better than what their 2019 class is, and that class needs to be the one that helps right the ship.

    Luckily for Tennessee, it looks like their 2020 class could end up being an impressive haul of recruits.

    The Vols are already in on some of the most talented players in the 2020 cycle, and those prospects are also big fans of Tennessee. If Jeremy Pruitt’s second squad of Volunteers can show some more improvement in 2019 and win seven or even eight games in the regular season, then a lot more of these highly-rated prospects will start to buy in.

    Not only that, but Tennessee has a strong crop of in-state players they can help supplement their 2020 class with. And those in-state recruits are much higher on the Vols in this cycle than they have been the last three or four cycles.

    Players life five-star defensive end Reggie Grimes, four-star defensive end Tyler Baron, four-star offensive tackle Omari Thomas, four-star offensive tackle Marcus Henderson, four-star offensive tackle Bryn Tucker, four-star linebacker Bryson Eason, four-star running back Elijah Young, and three-star center Cooper Mays are all high on Tennessee’s list, and all of them have already formed relationships with UT’s staff many months ago.

    The Vols picked up a lot of momentum in their 2019 class, and they need to build off that for the 2020 cycle. This class was good, and it was highly impressive given the circumstances. But the 2020 class needs to be great, and it looks like it can be.