Vols Listed as Winner, Florida as Loser of Early Signing Period

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    Wednesday was a good day for Tennessee’s football program, and that good day was recognized nationally.

    The Vols signed 21 prospects during the first day of the early signing period on Wednesday, getting signatures from 16 of their 18 previous commits while adding five new players to their class. Tennessee entered the day hoping to add at least five players, and they did just that, landing four-star defensive end Tyler Baron, four-star running back/linebacker Len’Neth Whitehead, four-star pass rusher Morven Joseph, three-star athlete/quarterback Jimmy Holiday, and three-star defensive tackle Reginald Perry.

    Not only that, but Tennessee was able to hold on to some of their top prospects like Omari Thomas, Harrison Bailey, Keshawn Lawrence, and Jimmy Calloway.

    When all the dust settled on Wednesday, Tennessee emerged with a top 10 class on Rivals.com and a top 15 class on 247Sports. Those rankings aren’t finalized, as some prospects will still be announcing the rest of this week, and National Signing Day isn’t until February. But on Wednesday, the Vols took a nice step forward and have room to add even more talented pieces in the coming weeks.

    Barton Simmons, the Director of Scouting at 247Sports, put together his list of winners and losers on the first day of the early signing period, and he included the Vols among his list of winners along with Nebraska, Utah, South Carolina, and Maryland.

    “Jeremy Pruitt is quickly developing a reputation for saving some good news for signing day,” Simmons wrote. “On Wednesday, it was running back/linebacker Len’Neth Whitehead kicking the day off with a commitment, followed by a flip of speedy quarterback Jimmy Holliday, who went to Tennessee from TCU. Then it was massive defensive tackle Reginald Perry and four-star defensive end Tyler Baron pledging. A win for four-star Morven Joseph over Florida and Florida State was the finishing touch. Tennessee got bigger and better on Wednesday.”

    On 247Sports, 12 of the Vols’ 21 signees are rated as four-stars, and 13 are rated as four-stars on Rivals. Tennessee was able to make up some ground on some teams in the SEC, and they’ve positioned themselves to make another jump come February.

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    One team that didn’t have things go their way on Wednesday was one of Tennessee’s biggest rivals.

    Simmons included the Florida Gators among his list of losers. Florida entered the day with a top 10 class, and they closed the day still inside the top 10. But the Gators swung and missed on several of their top targets on the day and failed to really improve on a good foundation.

    “The Gators had really high hopes for the way Wednesday would unfold,” Simmons wrote. “A potential flip of four-star defensive end Donell Harris from Texas A&M or defensive tackle Timothy Smith from Alabama were in the card. They also wanted to beat Stanford and Texas A&M on Florida legacy EJ Smith (the son of Emmitt Smith) but saw him go to the Cardinal. There were several other prospects the Gators were in on, including Morven Joseph. None of the news fell in Florida’s favor. Florida still finishes the day inside the national top 10, but it was a rare 0-for-signing day performance.”

    While Tennessee rose one spot in the overall SEC rankings in the 2020 class on 247Sports, Florida fell a spot. Now, the two teams are side-by-side, with the Vols’ class ranking seventh and Florida’s ranking sixth among the 14 SEC teams. Of Florida’s 21 signees, 14 are rated as four-stars on 247Sports.

    Simmons also included fellow SEC team LSU on his list of losers, citing the flips of five-star wide receiver Rakim Jarrett to Marlyand, four-star wide receiver Jermaine Burton to Georgia, and four-star safety Malcolm Greene to Clemson.

    Tennessee still has work to do on the recruiting trail, and they still have room to add more signees. But at least for now, the Vols have gotten national attention for their strong start to their 2020 class.

    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.