Tennessee addressed one of its top remaining needs in the 2021 recruiting class on Wednesday evening.
2021 in-state kicker JT Carver committed to Tennessee less than a week after receiving a preferred walk-on offer from the Vols. Carver also held a preferred walk-on offer from Michigan, and was hearing from Ole Miss, North Carolina, Arizona and Memphis.
Kohl’s kicking has Carver ranked as a five-star and the No. 14 overall kicker in the country.
“It feels really good,” Carver told Rocky Top Insider Wednesday night. “It was right and I didn’t have any reason to wait any longer. Definitely a dream come true.
“I called Coach Pruitt and we started talking about how practice went that day, and what’s for dinner. Then, I just let him know I was 100 percent in and I was ready to be a Vol. He was really excited and said he couldn’t wait for me to be there, that he sees something special in me and knows I’m going to be part of a special class, and a big part of the team.”
— JT Carver (@jt_carver) August 5, 2020
Aside from growing up a Tennessee fan, part of the appeal to kicking for the Vols is Pruitt himself. Carver loves Pruitt’s honesty, and how the third-year head coach doesn’t sugarcoat anything.
“The amount of trust they showed by offering me without being able to go through the regular recruiting process — like watching me kick at spring practice or kick at camp in the summer — for them to still offer me and having that trust in me, knowing I’m their guy even with all the restrictions they had to deal with, they still offered me, and that show me these guys trust me this much, and I’m making sure I make the right decision to go there.”
Tennessee doesn’t currently have a placekicker committed. Current Vols kicker Brent Cimaglia is set to graduate following the upcoming season. Carver will be enrolling early and competing for the starting job next season.
“They’ve (Tennessee) talked to me and let me know he’s (Cimaglia) graduating,” Carver said. “They’re looking for a guy that can come in and start, and they let me know I have a really good chance to come in and start.
“They’re looking for me to kick field goals and kickoff.”
Carver currently kicks at Westview High School in Martin, Tennessee, but hails from Knoxville. His father, Keith Carver, worked at the University of Tennessee for several years before becoming the chancellor at Tennessee-Martin. JT Carver’s sister is a current student at UT.
In addition to his family ties, Carver works with former Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit. His first coach when he began kicking in middle school was Alex Walls, a standout kicker for the Vols from 2008-12. Tennessee’s kicker from 2014-17, Aaron Medley, is also present at some workouts.
Finishing out his high school career with a great season at Westview is next on the docket for Carver. He also expressed with a laugh that he’ll be working on getting his high school quarterback, Ty Simpson, in the boat.
“That’s my next step,” Carver joked. “I was on him (Simpson) all day about it. At the end of the day, I’m going to support him wherever he goes, but it would be nice to bring that package deal from west Tennessee.
“He’s really supportive. He’s been one of my number one supporters through this process.”