Art Green’s recruitment has exploded recently. He’s added over a dozen offers over the last three months, and that includes offers from eight different SEC schools. Teams like Georgia, Florida, and Texas A&M have all extended offers to him, but none of those SEC schools got his commitment. Instead, it was Tennessee that got the pledge from one of the most athletically-gifted cornerbacks in the junior college ranks.
The 6-foot-2. 200-pound cornerback who plays for Hutchinson Community College took his first visit to Knoxville over the weekend, and he felt comfortable enough after that visit to go ahead and pull the trigger on his commitment.
“You know how you go somewhere and you just feel comfortable? That’s what I felt, like I’ve been there before,” Green told me after he made his public commitment on Twitter. “I won’t have a problem there because I can adapt and am a pretty flexible guy. I’m a people person, so meeting people and talking to people isn’t hard for me. Everybody there was easy-going and embraced me, and I loved it.”
Green wasn’t alone on his visit to UT’s campus. He had his family with him as well, and he said their comfort with Tennessee played a huge factor in his decision.
“My family is very important to me, and I wanted to make sure they were comfortable,” Green stated. “The coaching staff and everybody there just took them in with open hands, and I was happy to see that my sister and my dad were very happy with it. It’s a family environment there. Everybody is wanting to improve and wanting to get better and wanting to win games and are just happy to be a Vol.”
Those weren’t the only reasons why Green chose Tennessee, though. The biggest factor had to do with UT’s coaches and their track records at previous stops.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt has been successful developing defensive backs as an assistant and defensive coordinator at Alabama and did the same as a defensive coordinator at Florida State and Georgia, too. New UT defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley has also proven himself as a secondary coach at Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee (in 2012) as well as in the NFL.
The kind of development Green could receive at Tennessee under Pruitt and Ansley was a big draw for him.
“The coaching staff, their resumes are really, really good,” Green said. “Coach Pruitt was at Georgia, Alabama, and Florida State when they won their championships, and so was Coach Ansley. To have coaches like that, that opens up better opportunities for me as a player. Coach Pruitt is a DBs coach, and he likes to play multiple. That kinda helps me out because it gives me more opportunities to get on the field.”
Coming into his visit to Tennessee, Green had a checklist of things he wanted to figure out before he made a commitment. Once the visit was over, it was an easy decision for him to make.
“All the boxes were checked on my visit,” Green added. “I’m really not a person that wants to make a whole bunch of people wait. I knew where I was going, and I just wanted to commit.”
Though he isn’t rated on recruiting sites yet, Green is thought to be one of the top cornerbacks in the JUCO ranks in the 2020 cycle. And that’s after playing the position for just one season.
Coming out of high school at Parkway Central in Missouri, Green played wide receiver and was committed to Arkansas State. He didn’t have a high enough ACT score to qualify, though, and he ended up enrolling at Hutchinson Community College instead.
Once there, he switched from wide receiver to cornerback, and he found immediate success once he got comfortable at the position.
In 12 games in his first year at Hutchinson, Green intercepted six passes, broke up six more, totaled 19 tackles, and blocked a field goal. Green’s athleticism and length played a huge part in his success, as did his strong instincts. While he was overall happy with his first year at Hutchinson, Green told Pruitt that there are still areas he knows he needs to improve.
“With this past year being my first year playing corner, I was kinda just being athletic and relying on my athletic ability,” Green said. “But I told (Pruitt) that I really want to work on my technique and work on just being a technician out there. I’m going to work on making the game easier, not having to guess all the time.”
Green wouldn’t be the first player on UT’s roster who switched from wide receiver to cornerback, though.
Alontae Taylor joined the Vols as a projected wideout in the 2018 class and started out at receiver in the spring as an early enrollee. But Pruitt moved Taylor to cornerback during spring practices, and he stayed there in the fall. Though teammate and fellow freshman Bryce Thompson received more accolades in his debut season than Taylor, the freshman from Manchester, TN still impressed and was one of the better true freshmen corners on a Power Five roster in 2018.
Green said that Pruitt talked “a little bit” about Taylor’s transition from receiver to corner with him, but it wasn’t a huge focus of their conversations. Still, Green says that playing receiver for years has helped him at corner.
“That helps a lot. When other receivers do things that I did, I just know off the bat what’s going on,” Green said. “Even when the ball is in the air, you kinda turn into a receiver in a way. It just makes it a lot easier.”
One thing that Tennessee’s coaches did mention was that the Vols have had a lot of luck with players from Hutchinson Community College in the past. The Vols signed wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson out of Hutchinson in 2012, and he spent one season with UT. His success in Tennessee’s offense helped him become a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft, and he won a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots this past season. The Vols also signed running back Alvin Kamara from Hutchinson in their 2015 class, and he spent two years at UT. Kamara was taken in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and won Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was even more productive in 2018.
At first, Green didn’t realize Tennessee had such a strong connection to Hutchinson, but he said that didn’t really factor into his decision. He would’ve chosen the Vols even without that.
“I didn’t think about it till they said something, then I was like ‘oh snap, that actually did happen,'” Green admitted. “It’s a coincidence that I committed. I just really like the place.”
Green’s trip to Knoxville was his first visit he’s taken since coming to Hutchinson, but right now he’s not planning on taking any other visits. Despite his recruitment blowing up over the last few months, he says he hasn’t even thought about taking other visits right now and is “focused on Tennessee right now.”
With his size and athleticism, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see Green potentially move from cornerback to safety or playing at the STAR position for the Vols in the future. But that’s in the future, says Green, and right now he’s going to focus on becoming a better corner first.
“With the way Coach Pruitt runs his defense, he has a couple spots I could play,” Green said. “But for me to come in, he wants me to learn corner first, then after I learn that we can explore other positions.”
Green has three years to play two at the next level, and he projects to be an early enrollee in the 2020 class, meaning he can join the Vols in January of 2020 and go through spring practices with them.
The Vols now have seven commitments in their 2020 class, and Green joins four-star defensive end Jordan Davis as Tennessee’s JUCO commits in their 2020 class.