Tennessee is currently on a tear in the 2021 recruiting cycle, picking up commitments nearly every day over the last week-plus. But UT’s coaches aren’t just focused on the current class; the Vols are also preparing for another big haul in the 2022 cycle, and Tennessee recently offered a defensive back out of Florida who is set to make a name for himself.
James Monds III plays for Fort Pierce Westwood down in Fort Pierce, Florida, though he played at Port St. Lucie in the 2019 season. He’s a cornerback worth keeping an eye on. Tennessee extended an offer to him on May 1st, and the Vols were just the latest in a long line of teams to come calling for the fast-rising 2022 prospect.
I caught up with Monds to discuss his offer from the Vols and his recruitment, and it’s evident that UT has made a strong impression on him.
According to Monds, Tennessee defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley was the one who gave him the offer, and he and UT’s other coaches are a big fan of Monds’ ability.
“He said he really likes my game and that he feels like I can make them go to the next level,” Monds said. “I was excited because they’re one of my top schools.”
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound rising junior is already fairly familiar with Tennessee despite not having been to UT’s campus yet. He’s already friends with several of the Vols’ 2021 commits, including four-star defensive back Kamar Wilcoxson, five-star defensive end Dylan Brooks, and three-star defensive back De’Shawn Rucker.
It should be no surprise to Vol fans that Wilcoxson, a fellow Florida defensive back, has been recruiting Monds pretty hard to join him at Tennessee as a commit. Wilcoxson has taken it upon himself to be UT’s chief peer recruiter in the 2021 class, and that extends to other prospects in other cycles as well.
Because of those connections with other Tennessee targets and commits, Monds already knew a little about the Vols before getting the offer from UT.
“I knew about the culture they had there,” Monds explained. “I also knew about how good the coaches were and what Coach Pruitt is trying to build.”
Monds hasn’t been to Tennessee yet, but he says he will “most definitely” visit Knoxville once recruits are allowed to get back on the road after the COVID-19 pandemic slows down. He also wants to “probably” go back to visit Miami and check out Michigan State, too.
Before the current pandemic hit, Monds had a modest offer list. But since late March, his recruitment has absolutely erupted.
Western Kentucky gave Monds his first offer back on February 8th. That was his only offer until Kansas gave him another on March 26th, and things snowballed from there.
Since that Kansas offer, Monds has picked up offers from a dozen schools, including programs like Miami, Michigan State, Arizona, and UCF. He’s also been invited to attend the 2022 Under Armour All-American Game.
Monds’ strong sophomore season is a big reason why he’s gotten so much more attention lately. He racked up five interceptions, 16 pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and three return touchdowns in his second year of high school football, earning First Team All-Conference honors after the season.
Though he’s just a middling three-star on 247Sports right now, expect to see that change in the coming months.
Monds has enjoyed the boost in his recruitment, and he feels like the quarantine has helped him form good relationships with coaches around the country despite not being able to see them in person or visit campuses.
“Over quarantine is when I’ve gained pretty much all my offers. It’s pretty cool,” Monds said. “It’s been good. I’ve been able to get a connection with (coaches) before I go up there and visit the school.”
Tennessee really likes Monds, and the young Florida defensive back really likes the Vols. So should Vol fans be on the lookout for Monds to be the next recruit to jump in the boat? Monds isn’t ready to say just yet, but he does have a message for Vol nation.
“I want Vol fans to know to stay tuned because something big is happening.”