Walter Nolen, the top-ranked recruit in the class of 2022, updated the finalists for his recruitment on Friday. The five-star defensive lineman did include Tennessee in his top three. In fact, Tennessee was one of only two schools to hold onto their spot from Nolen’s top five.
Nolen made his announcement after he competed for Powell High School in Neyland Stadium on Friday night. After completing his debut for Powell in the Knoxville Kick-Off Classic, Nolen was asked if he had an update on his top three schools. Nolen answered that his new top three are Tennessee, Florida, and Texas A&M.
“It felt good,” Nolen said after the game when asked how it felt to walk out into Neyland Stadium. “I can see myself doing it again, more than one time. Really, more than three. I feel like being here now, I can see probably, maybe, calling this place home in a couple months.”
ESPN currently has Nolen listed as the top-ranked recruit overall in the class of 2022. Nolen is listed one spot lower as the second-ranked overall recruit in the nation by 247 Sports. Meanwhile, Rivals has Nolen listed as the sixth-best player in the country. Either way, Nolen is one of the most elite talents in the country at the high school level. A recruiting analyst for 247 Sports, Gabe Brooks, said Nolen “should become impact high-major defensive lineman with high-round NFL Draft ceiling.”
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound defensive lineman, began his first high school season in Knoxville this year. During his junior year, Nolen attended Olive Branch High School in Mississippi. However, Powell High School is just about 20 minutes north of Tennessee’s campus, making the recruiting process significantly more convenient for Tennessee. Rivals’ National Recruiting Director Adam Gorney recently discussed Tennessee’s high interest in Nolen.
“Tennessee is now the front-runner in his recruitment,” Gorney said near the end of July. “The ball is in coach Josh Heupel’s and position coach Rodney Garner’s court to make it happen.”
On July 9, Nolen released a top five, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, and Tennessee. But as of Friday, Nolen had removed three of those five and added in Texas A&M. Tennessee and Florida are the only schools to retain their spot for five-star Walter Nolen.
Nolen has taken two official visits during his recruitment but also tacked on several unofficial visits. On June 4, Nolen officially visited Florida, followed by an official visit to Michigan on June 18. However, since April, Nolen has taken six unofficial visits to four other schools.
The top-ranked recruit first took an unofficial visit to Alabama on April 17 and another unofficial visit on June 23. Then, on June 2, Walter Nolen unofficially visited Tennessee. He then took another unofficial visit to Tennessee on June 21. Lastly, Nolen visited Georgia on June 10 and Texas A&M on June 30, both unofficially.
As a five-star recruit, ranked at 0.992 by 247 Sports, Walter Nolen would tie the highest-rated recruit in Tennessee program history. Currently, that spot belongs to Bryce Brown of the class of 2009.