This weekend is an important one for Tennessee’s football team. The Vols are playing host to South Carolina in a must-win game for both teams. But this weekend could be just as important for the future of both UT’s football and men’s basketball programs as it is for this year’s current football team.
The Vols will be hosting several key recruits in the 2020 class in football on Saturday. Chief among those visitors are a pair of in-state targets and a highly-rated wide receiver who is committed to Alabama.
The two in-state prospects are two of the top players in the state of Tennessee in the 2020 cycle. Both four-star defensive tackle/offensive lineman Omari Thomas and four-star defensive lineman Jay Hardy tweeted out this week that they’ll be taking official visits to Knoxville this weekend. Thomas, who plays for Briarcrest Christian in Memphis, just took an official visit to Texas A&M on October 11th and recently made an unofficial visit to UT’s campus for the Georgia game. He also has official visits scheduled for Alabama, Ole Miss, and Auburn. For Hardy, this will mark the second time he’s been to Knoxville this month as well. The McCallie High School (Chattanooga, TN) athlete came for an unofficial trip when Tennessee hosted Mississippi State for their last home game.
Per the 247Sports Composite rankings, Thomas is the No. 101 overall prospect in the 2020 class and is the No. 9 defensive tackle and No. 3 player in the state of Tennessee. The Vols just picked up three commitments from a trio of Memphis teammates earlier this week when four-star linebacker Bryson Eason, four-star linebacker Martavius French, and three-star safety/linebacker Tamarion McDonald from Whitehaven High School all announced their commitments on the same night.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman is scheduled to make his public commitment announcement on January 4th during the All-American Game.
According to the 247Sports Composite, Hardy is the No. 114 overall player, No. 5 strong-side defensive end, and No. 5 player in the state of Tennessee in the 2020 class. Hardy has also gotten a lot of attention from Auburn in his recruitment. This visit for the 6-foot-4, 290-pound lineman will mark at least the eighth time in 2019 he’s taken a trip up to Knoxville.
But those two aren’t the only big-time football prospects who will be in town.
According to his Instagram account, four-star wide receiver and current Alabama commit Thaiu Jones-Bell will also be in Knoxville this weekend. Jones-Bell has been committed to the Tide since May 20th of this year, but UT’s staff has continued to contact him and haven’t relented on attempting to flip him.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound receiver from Miami Carol City High School in Hallandale, Florida is the No. 83 overall prospect, No. 17 wide receiver, and No. 14 player in the state of Florida in the 2020 class per the 247Sports Composite rankings. As of right now, Alabama has three receivers committed to them in their 2020 class, and Jones-Bell is the highest-rated of the trio.
Tennessee won’t just be hosting some high profile recruits in football, though.
On the basketball front, Rick Barnes and his staff will be hosting two five-star visitors on official visits this weekend. As we have written in previous articles, No. 1 power forward Paolo Banchero and five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler will both be in Knoxville this weekend. Both are part of the 2021 recruiting cycle.
Banchero hails from Seattle, Washington and is not only the top-ranked power forward in the 2021 class, but he’s one of the highest-rated overall prospects period. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound five-star is the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2021 class per the 247Sports Composite. This weekend will be his first trip to Tennessee, and he notably chose to visit the Vols over taking a visit to Memphis.
Chandler is Tennessee’s top point guard prospect in the 2021 class, and he’s one of the top players in the state of Tennessee, too. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound point guard from Briarcrest Christian in Memphis (the same school Omari Thomas attends) is the No. 2 player in the state, the No. 2 point guard, and the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2021 cycle. Only Moussa Cisse from Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis is rated higher than Chandler in the state of Tennessee in the 2021 class, and the only point guard rated higher than him is Khristian Lander.
Tennessee’s coaches visited both Banchero and Chandler multiple times over the summer, and both prospects are two of the Vols’ top priorities in the 2021 cycle.
The Vols need a win on the football field on Saturday, and the atmosphere in Neyland and the vibe in Knoxville could go a long way to helping both Jeremy Pruitt and Rick Barnes on the recruiting trail, too.