Tennessee’s 2016 recruiting class is in the books so it’s time to move forward. The Vols hope a successful season on the field will result in even more recruiting momentum heading into 2017.
Here are five recruits you need to know:
Elijah Conliffe, DE, Hampton (Va.) High School
Compared to the other prospects on this list, Conliffe is more of a late bloomer. The Vols just offered him a scholarship in late January shortly after Penn State did so as well. Before that, he had reported offers from six other Power 5 schools, including UGA and North Carolina. . Things can change quickly once a junior highlight video starts to make the rounds, and there could be more offers on the way. Conliffe was initially projected to play defensive end but if he continues to grow, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound prospect could become a defensive tackle. He is rated as the No. 14 strongside defensive end in 2017 and the No. 14 player in Virginia.
Eric Crosby, DT, Ocean Lakes High School (Virginia Beach, Va.)
Crosby will be one of the top targets in the mid-Atlantic area in 2017. He is already rated the No. 5 defensive tackle in the nation and the No. 3 prospect in Virginia. Tennessee’s recent success with defensive linemen should help the Vols. However, Crosby already has plenty of suitors, including Alabama, Clemson and Virginia Tech. Still, he has shown interest in the Vols. He attended games against Oklahoma and South Carolina at Neyland Stadium in 2015. He’s also visited Virginia Tech and Ohio State, so there’s no shortage of competition.
Breyon Gaddy, DT, Bishop Sullivan Catholic (Norfolk, Va.)
This will be a tough get for Tennessee but the Vols will battle to the end. The key is getting Gaddy on campus early and often, perhaps during a spring junior day. Gaddy’s scholarship offer list is gaudy, with official invites from Alabama, Michigan, Miami and UGA. Some offers even date back to last spring. Florida State and Clemson will be tough to beat, but keep an eye on Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish are quietly lurking. Gaddy is the No. 8 defensive tackle in the nation and the No. 4 prospect in Virginia.
Maleik Gray, Athlete, La Vergne (Tenn.) High School
Gray is already a well-known prospect among the nation’s top recruiters. He has already seen strong interest from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Southern California and reportedly has 22 offers. The Vols have done well with in-state prospects but this one will be a challenge. Gray has already shown strong interest in Florida State, where he is being recruited by former Tennessee coach Randy Sanders, who is the co-offensive coordinator for the Seminoles. Also, look for Clemson to try to make a strong push. The Tigers offered Gray a scholarship in January. Henry is the No. 3 athlete in the nation and the No. 2 prospect in the state of Tennessee.
Tee Higgins, WR, Oak Ridge (Tenn.) High School
Higgins’ recruitment began anew when he announced on Thursday evening on Twitter that he was no longer committed to Tennessee. However, he specifically said the Vols were still in consideration. There’s every reason to believe the Vols can still land Higgins considering he’s so close to Tennessee’s campus. The Vols have also made him a high priority. Higgins is a special talent the Vols don’t want to let slip away. However, now that he’s no longer committed several other schools will come calling. Clemson is expected to make a strong charge. Higgins figures to be a high-profile prospect with several of his basketball dunks going viral and one making ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Higgins is rated as the No. 7 receiver in the nation and the No. 3 prospect in Tennessee.
All rankings are from the 247sports composite unless otherwise noted