KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Brant Lawless is one of the top prospects in Tennessee for the Class of 2018. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive tackle is the latest blue-chip recruit to hail from Nashville Christian, holding over a dozen offers already including a scholarship from Tennessee.
The Volunteers were among the first schools to enter the picture with the 4-star recruit, aggressively targeting the promising in-state tackle. The junior, ranked as the 7th-best prospect in the Volunteer State, has visited Tennessee several times, including tripping to Knoxville this weekend for the Florida game.
Lawless told me he had a blast, explaining the experience left a real impression.
“It was a real great experience. It was a really intense game,” he said.
“They may have started off a little slow but in the second half they started to put it on them. The atmosphere being down there was just great. It’s definitely a place you want to go to.”
During the visit, Lawless spent time with defensive line coach Steve Stripling and got to know some fellow top 2018 in-state prospects like Cade Mays, a 5-star UT commit, and Riverdale defensive tackle D’Andre Litaker.
Lawless, who is also being heavily recruited by Ohio State, Georgia and Auburn, among others, has a natural connection to Tennessee, as freshman linebacker Daniel Bituli starred at Nashville Christian, too.
“We’re good friends. We talk all the time,” Lawless said of Bituli.
“He shoots me a text to make sure I’m still leading the team. He’s kind of like that big brother that stays on you.”
Bituli isn’t pushing Tennessee on Lawless — at least not yet. Instead, the Volunteers freshman linebacker is mostly lending advice on how to handle the recruiting process.
“He’s letting me do my thing, but guiding me on how to handle that process. It’s the same process he went through,” he said.
“It’s been a real good experience. It’s cool getting offers from big schools, but you just got to keep pushing and stay humble. I enjoy it.”
To make sure he keeps everything in perspective, Lawless’ mom harps on a simple message.
“Whenever I get an offer I go tell my mom, ‘Hey, I got an offer from so-and-so!” The first thing she always says then is, ‘Well you need to stay humble.’ And I say, ‘Yes ma’am.’”
With an eye on his future, Lawless shed close to 40 pounds this offseason and is playing some offense for Nashville Christian this fall. A former AAU basketball star, the defensive tackle “just decided to lose the weight” to improve his conditioning, speed and potential as a future D-1 athlete.
“I was around 310 at the end of my sophomore season last year. I’ve lost quite a bit,” he said.
“I started doing everything harder. Extra. More workouts. Eating way better than I was before. It’s definitely helped out a lot.”
Lawless plays nose guard for the Eagles, but recently he’s tinkered as a 3-technique tackle, giving him a chance to showcase his explosiveness and power. The Top-150 prospect said he’s learned some of his moves from a former Nashville native who is currently wrecking havoc in opponents backfields for Tennessee.
“I look up to Derek Barnett a lot,” he said.
“I study him a lot and look at his game. See how he is. Quick hands. Powerful. I pay a lot of attention to him. I love his game a lot.”
Lawless won’t make a decision anytime soon, but the top talent certainly notices Tennessee’s persistent interest.
“They hit me up all the time,” he said.
“They’re showing me a lot of love.”
Top 3 performances by Tennessee commits
1. Tailback Ty Chandler. The 4-star Montgomery Bell Academy product rushed for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns, giving the coveted ball-carrier 21 scores on the season.
2. Linebacker Solon Page III. The 3-star Kell (Ga.) linebacker had a 22-yard pick-six and 3 TFLs in a 39-7 win on Friday.
3. Receiver Jordan Murphy. The 3-star Hattiesburg (Miss.) wideout scored 3 touchdowns in a blowout win Friday, catching two scores and recording a 35-yard touchdown run.