The in-state talent from the state of Tennessee is slowly growing each year.
And in Knoxville, the Volunteers’ football team has seen some benefits from the increased talent pool. Places like the Nashville area are overflowing with talented prospects.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones caught flack last season for missing out on some top in-state prospects. He’s done a solid job recruiting some of the best prospects in the state this cycle, though.
SEC Country has studied the prospects from Tennessee and ranked the top 20 players in the Class of 2018.
Here’s the countdown:
20. 3-star OT Cole Mabry (6-6, 270 pounds), Notre Dame
Cole Mabry has stayed strong in his commitment to Notre Dame for a while now and it doesn’t look like he’ll look anywhere else, either.
Mabry is another in a long line of big offensive lineman from the Nashville area. He anchors the line of Brentwood High School.
19. 3-star OT Tanner Antonutti (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), Tennessee
Tanner Antonutti will play tackle exclusively for Ensworth (Nashville, Tenn.) High School this season after working on the line and at tight end in previous seasons. Tennessee projects him as an offensive tackle at the next level.
Ensworth holds a 7-2 record right now with help from Antonutti on the line.
Antonutti attended Tennessee’s home-opener against Indiana State and he appears locked into the Vols.
Antonutti has the potential to really rise playing only left tackle in his senior season and honing his skills. He possesses tremendous athleticism for a lineman, and could turn into an excellent pass blocker.
18. 3-star TE Gavin Schoenwald (6-5, 225 pounds), Vanderbilt
Gavin Schoenwald decided to stay in the area and commit to Vanderbilt. He plays for Brentwood Academy in the suburbs of Nashville.
Schoenwald shows a willingness and seemingly even a desire to block and punish opposing players. This should translate well to the next level when the Commodores coaching staff demands this kind of play from him.
17. 3-star CB Jaylon King (6-1, 170 pounds), Georgia Tech
Jaclyn King makes plays on the field, to put it simply. If he can add more strength, he could really shoot up the board.
King gets by for Ensworth by being faster than every other player on the field. This is his greatest attribute. He plays quarterback and cornerback, but his future will likely lie on the defensive end of the field.
16. 3-star OLB Jack Sirmon (6-2, 225 pounds), Washington
Jack Sirmon recorded 61 tackles and 3 interceptions for Brentwood Academy last season.
Sirmon has a nose for the ball and always seems to find his way into the play regardless of his starting position on the field. Should he decide to stay committed to Washington, the Huskies will get a linebacker capable of developing into something special.
15. 3-star ATH DaShon Bussell (6-2, 182 pounds), uncommitted
DaShon Bussell doesn’t have the most impressive offer list, as his two best offers so far are Tennessee and Iowa State. The list doesn’t do justice to just how good Bussell really can be as a player. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands.
Bussell plays for Knoxville Catholic High School, so he will get plenty of looks this season with Tennessee commit Cade Mays on the field. Catholic has begun the season with a 6-3 record, but Bussell has turned some heads with his play.
Bussell plays wide receiver and cornerback and has said he leans toward playing corner at the next level.
14. 3-star DT Emmit Gooden (6-4, 310 pounds), Arkansas
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema likes linemen on both sides of the ball a certain way, and that’s big and hard to move around.
Gooden brings the Razorbacks exactly that with his size. He has the frame to get into a college weight room and really become a strong player at the next level.
13. 4-star OT Maxwell Iyama (6-6, 280 pounds), South Carolina
Maxwell Iyama needs to put on more size to reach his full potential. There is plenty there to get excited about if you’re a South Carolina fan, though.
On run plays, Iyama attacks the defenders and never seems to let up until the play is finished.
12. 4-star WR Cameron Johnson (6-1, 182 pounds), Vanderbilt
Cameron Johnson’s commitment to Vanderbilt in June seemed like a bit of surprise at the time, and is a huge get for coach Derek Mason. Johnson decided to stay in the Nashville area — he plays for Brentwood Academy — which is huge for Vanderbilt.
Johnson has good vision with the ball in his hands in the open field, allowing him to be a dangerous kickoff return man. He fights through contact and doesn’t go down with just an arm tackle. He could develop into a terrific possession wide receiver for the Commodores.
11. 3-star TE Jacob Warren (6-6, 211 pounds), Tennessee
Jacob Warren has shown his playmaking ability early and often in high school season. He has 23 receptions for 456 yards and 6 touchdowns through 8 games.
I think his receiving abilities have impressed people this season. He’s got good speed for his size, too.
Warren has the size and ability to become a top SEC tight end down the line. He will need to add some pounds so he can block SEC defenders, though.
Warren should get plenty of opportunities to shine in the Vols’ offense once he’s ready. Offensive coordinator Larry Scott was the lead recruiter for the Farragut (Knoxville, Tenn.) High School product.
10. 4-star OT Jerome Carvin (6-4, 307 pounds), uncommitted
Jerome Carvin is the top uncommitted prospect in the state and will make his decision after he takes all five of his official visits.
Carvin dominates the play on the west side of the state with his sheer size. At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, Carvin bullies his smaller defenders. It might be a big adjustment when he comes to college, because he won’t be able to win his matchups on size alone.
I believe the Cordova, Tenn., product will end up on Rocky Top, but Mississippi State is a looming threat, one that is becoming bigger with each passing day. Tennessee is recruiting him as a right tackle, but other schools have pegged him as a guard.
He might lack the mobility the to play the pass rush effectively at the next level. Tennessee certainly believes in him, though.
9. 4-star DT D’Andre Litaker (6-2, 302 pounds), Tennessee
Litaker tore his ACL early in the season. The injury will end his high school career, and he has begun the rehab process toward getting ready for his college career with Tennessee.
This has been Litaker’s second torn ACL in as many seasons. There is some concern he won’t be able to bounce back fully from the injury, but I’m a believer in Litaker. He isn’t someone I’d bet against.
Litaker and the Tennessee coaching staff already have talked about him redshirting his first season on campus. This is likely the best move for Litaker so he can take the process slow and try to regain confidence in his legs.
8. 4-star DT Brant Lawless (6-3, 285 pounds), Tennessee
Brant Lawless seems to be the quiet guy that just consistently gets the job done. One of Butch Jones’ favorite traits in a player is consistency, so it’s easy to see why he wants Lawless.
Lawless uses his quickness to get around offensive linemen with ease for Nashville Christian School. If he’s not double-teamed, Lawless will find his way into the backfield.
When the competition picks up in college and it becomes a little tougher to disengage offensive linemen, it will be interesting to see how Lawless uses his speed to make plays.
Lawless’ commitment to the Vols was one of Tennessee defensive line coach Brady Hoke’s first victories on staff. It’s easy to see why Hoke pursued Lawless, because his athleticism makes him a handful for offensive linemen.
7. 4-star S Brendon Harris (6-foot, 205 pounds), undecided
Harris fell a little bit in the rankings because college coaches seem to wonder where he might fit best at the next level. He plays running back and safety for Baylor (Chattanooga) High School.
Harris was a Tennessee commit, but opened up his recruitment after the 41-0 loss to Georgia. It is believed Tennessee had slightly pulled off of Harris as much as he wanted to look elsewhere, too.
Clemson recruited him a little over the summer, but it is unclear if the Tigers still hold interest. He probably won’t be in a Tennessee uniform next season, though.
6. 4-star RB Master Teague III (5-11, 210 pounds), Ohio State
Master Teague spurned the in-state Vols for an Ohio State commitment over the summer.
Teague has good balance and explosion through the hole for a running back. If Teague gets to the second level, he has the breakaway speed needed to make big plays. It is obvious any time a highlight of his comes on why he received so much attention from colleges.
The Blackman High School product did enough to turn the head of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, and Teague has 724 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns through 5 games this season. I bumped him up two spots because of his strong play.
Tennessee needs another running back this cycle, but don’t expect Teague to be the one on the list.
5. 4-star OT Max Wray (6-6, 289 pounds), Ohio State
The offensive tackle has a huge offer list, with Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson all notably on there.
Wray simply just bullies opposing players into where he wants them to go. When he reaches the second level, he can knock back some secondary players a few yards.
If Wray can prove his pass-blocking skills at the next level, he could compete on Ohio State’s offensive line.
4. 4-star DE Jordan Davis (6-5, 238 pounds), Alabama
Any time a defensive lineman receives a committable offer from the Crimson Tide, it’s noteworthy.
Jordan Davis’ pass-rushing skills off the edge might even be better than Greg Emerson’s at the moment. Alabama coach Nick Saban must be able to envision the big, athletic frame as a productive SEC pass rusher down the line.
Davis plays for Southwind High School in Memphis. He plays against some of the most athletic players in the South and his play stands out from the rest.
3. 4-star WR Alontae Taylor (6-foot, 182 pounds), Tennessee
Alontae Taylor is one of only two players in the state to attend the Opening Finals along with Greg Emerson.
Taylor has blazing speed and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He has played quarterback during his high school career for Coffee Country Central, but is making the switch to wide receiver this season.
Tennessee wants Taylor to play wide receiver when he comes to the team and he has already begun working on his skills.
Taylor has shown good wide receiver abilities already in the high school season. About every week he ends up with a touchdown reception of over 30 yards.
Taylor has received attention from Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State over the past weeks. If The Vols continue to struggle, he could be a candidate to flip.
2. 4-star DE Greg Emerson (6-5, 275 pounds), Tennessee
Greg Emerson surprised everyone when he committed to the Vols in July. The decision wasn’t the surprise, as much as it was the timing, since Emerson originally planned to announce his commitment in December. Tennessee gets one of the best defensive linemen around and the best defensive player in the state.
Emerson’s size and brute force separate him from everyone else on the list. Some recruiting services have Emerson listed as a defensive tackle or project him to play there at the next level. Emerson scoffs at that notion and always says he will play defensive end in college.
Emerson sustained a dislocated left ankle and fractured left fibula at Nike’s The Opening and has been rehabbing his way back to health. He looks like he’ll be completely healthy when he gets to campus for Tennessee.
1. 5-star OT Cade Mays (6-5, 305 pounds), Tennessee
Cade Mays makes the top of the list again, which is really no surprise. Mays dominates the high school game with his brute force and physicality.
The recruitment of Mays has gotten very interesting since the Georgia loss. He committed to the Vols over two years ago, but he has recently began talking with other schools again.
Clemson and Alabama have come calling. It is likely Mays will still end up a Vol, but there is doubt for the first time in a while.