Analyst: Vols In Line for Another Strong Recruiting Class in 2021

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    Despite a disastrous start to the 2019 season, Tennessee was able to close out the season strong and are currently riding a six-game winning streak heading into the 2020 season. That finish helped the Vols also close out their 2020 recruiting class in a big way, as UT added seven new additions to their class between the December and February signing periods, finishing with a top 10 class both on 247Sports and Rivals.

    Tennessee already has a few commitments in the 2021 cycle, and they’re in play for several huge names in the class. Because of that and because of the projected success the Vols could have in the 2020 season, one of the most prominent names in college football recruiting thinks UT is in line for yet another noteworthy class in 2021.

    Steve Wiltfong, the Director of Recruiting for 247Sports, put together an article looking at 10 programs that are in line for a great 2021 recruiting class. Wiltfong included several SEC schools in his list, and Tennessee was one of them.

    “The Vols closed strong to end the 2020 cycle at No. 10, the program’s first Top 10 class since 2015,” Wiltfong writes. “Head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff are looking to reach that status in back to back years, and currently sit at (No. 13) at this point in the process.”

    Tennessee’s five current commits already have them sitting right outside the top 10 in the very early 2021 team rankings, and four-star wide receiver Jordan Mosley is currently the highest-rated commit in UT’s class.

    But the Vols have a chance of adding several more elite pieces to their 2021 class.

    “Tennessee is in the middle of it for some big-time names,” Wiltfong explains. “Nobody is recruiting pass rusher Demeioun Robinson harder (No. 20). Defensive end Dylan Brooks (No. 26) has been on campus a bunch. Running back TreVeyon Henderson (No. 11) linebacker Smael Mondon (No. 18), Cornerback Nyland Green (No. 27), receiver Dont’e Thornton (No. 55), defensive end Jeremiah Williams (No. 66) and offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson (No. 73) are a few other top targets.”

    All of the prospects Wiltfong mentions in his analysis are top-100 recruits in the updated 247Sports rankings, but those aren’t the only highly-rated prospects worth noting who are on Tennessee’s board in the 2021 cycle.

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    In the state of Tennessee alone, the Vols are pursuing four-star cornerback Andre Turrentine, four-star outside linebacker Junior Colson, four-star offensive tackle Eli Sutton, four-star tight end Hudson Wolfe, and four-star offensive lineman Dietrick Pennington just to name a few. All of those prospects are currently ranked inside the top-250 prospects in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

    Throw in five-star defensive tackle Payton Page, five-star offensive tackle Amarius Mims, five-star outside linebacker Terrence Lewis, four-star running back Cody Brown, and four-star quarterback Christian Veilleux, and it’s clear that Tennessee is swinging for the fences in the 2021 class.

    It’s worth noting that the Vols were in on several elite, five-star prospects around this time last year in the 2020 cycle as well, yet none of them ended up signing with UT. Prospects like Darnell Washington, Arik Gilbert, Sav’ell Smalls, Noah Sewell, and Rakim Jarrett were all interested in Tennessee, and the Vols seemed to be in good spots with most of them at some point in the spring and summer.

    Then disaster struck for Tennessee to start the 2019 season, and UT lost traction with most of those highly-rated prospects.

    The Vols did still sign elite quarterback Harrison Bailey and a pair of other top-100 prospects in safety Keshawn Lawrence and defensive lineman Omari Thomas, but Tennessee missed out on a few headline-grabbing recruits they might’ve been able to land had the beginning of their 2019 season gone better.

    But Tennessee is still in the thick of things for five-star running back Zach Evans, and the Vols did end up closing out the 2019 season strong and closed similarly with their 2020 class.

    The last time the Vols signed back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes on 247Sports was in the 2014 and 2015 cycles under Butch Jones. Those classes, however, are infamous for experiencing a ton of attrition and failing to live up to expectations for the most part.

    In Pruitt’s first full recruiting cycle as UT’s head coach, the Vols signed the No. 13 class in the country in the 2019 cycle. The 2020 cycle saw Tennessee rise up to No. 10 in the team rankings. Now, Vol fans are hoping UT can get closer — or even sneak into — the top five classes in the 2021 cycle.