The Tennessee Volunteers and head coach Josh Heupel seem to be continually gaining ground on five-star wide receiver Carnell Tate as the days go by. At the beginning of March, Tennessee’s chances at landing the elite wideout seemed to be as low as finding a needle in a haystack. However, in the last two months or so, quite a bit has happened.
When Tate announced his Top Five on Mar. 16, On3 Sports’ Recruiting Prediction Machine gave Ohio State a 94.7 percent chance to land the talented recruit. Just a few days after Tate included Tennessee in his Top Five, the Vols received a verbal commitment from five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava. The California quarterback immediately called out Carnell Tate by name as one of the players that he wants to see end up at Tennessee with him.
Tennessee was then able to host both Iamaleava and Tate, along with a number of other recruits, for the Vols’ spring game and recruiting weekend in early April. Following that visit, Tennessee jumped up to the favorite position in On3’s projections at 54.8 percent on Apr. 15.
Now, as things stand at the time of this publication, Tennessee’s chances have risen once again. The Vols are now the leaders at 60.5 percent. In addition, Ohio State’s chances also dropped 4.8 percent since the last update. Once the overwhelming favorite by a large margin, Ohio State’s projection has plummeted from 94.7 percent to just 31.3 percent in the last month and a half.
According to On3’s consensus rankings, Tate is currently listed as the No. 19 overall player, the No. 4 wide receiver, and the No. 5 player from the state of Florida in the class of 2023. While preparing for another season with IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Tate will be working with teammate and four-star wide receiver Devin Hyatt, who is another target for Tennessee. Devin Hyatt is also the brother of current Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt.
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A common tie between many of the recruits that Tennessee is targeting is quarterback commit Nico Iamaleava. With Iamaleava as the foundational quarterback piece to Tennessee’s class, recruits have an immediate vision of what the future could look like. As opposed to building a class around a lineman, per se, building around a quarterback is often a much easier selling point to other recruits. Just take Iamaleava’s call out of Carnell Tate as an example.
Another example, though, is far more recent. One spot behind Tate in On3’s consensus overall rankings is five-star defensive back Tony Mitchell, who is also a Tennessee target. Even though Mitchell isn’t on the same side of the ball as Iamaleava, the California quarterback is still a comforting player to have lined up in the commitments already. While speaking with Sports Illustrated’s Matt Ray earlier this week, Mitchell spoke about that relationship with Iamaleava.
“I have been talking to Nico [Iamaleava] a lot, man,” Mitchell said in the interview with Ray. “I’m like really good friends with him. Just talking to his dad and his family and getting to know those guys. I like them all a lot.”
Mitchell even went as far as calling Iamaleava the best quarterback in the class.
“Really good player,” Mitchell said about Iamaleava in the SI interview. “I met him actually at 7-on-7. I’ve seen him play in person live; I really like him. Good dude, a good friend, and a really good player. I’d say my favorite QB in the class. I’d say he’s the best, in my opinion, and continuing to get to know him, build that relationship, get to know each other’s family, stuff like that.”
After gaining significant ground on the recruiting trail, Tennessee’s latest projection to land five-star WR Carnell Tate continues to rise.