KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With 23 commits already, Tennessee isn’t in any rush to fill its final needs in the Class of 2017.
Since National Signing Day is still more than six months away, many of the Vols top remaining targets — 5-star offensive tackle Trey Smith, 5-star tailback Cam Akers, 4-star safety Deangelo Gibbs and 4-star receiver Jeremiah Holloman — won’t pick a college anytime soon anyways.
So instead, Tennessee has turned its attention to the future, dishing out a flurry of 2018 and 2019 offers over the last week.
Since Butch Jones and Bob Welton — UT’s director of player personnel since 2013 — have teamed up, the Vols have aggressively targeted prospects earlier than many programs. For instance, Tennessee was among the first programs to offer dynamic Louisiana cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza — a 2017 Vols commit who picked UT over the home-state LSU Tigers.
In July, Tennessee handed out offers to a local speedy eighth-grader and a hometown prospect who plays with 5-star Vols 2018 commit Cade Mays.
This week, Tennessee continued that trend, offering California defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux — the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 class.
I am blessed to announce that I received my 5th offer from the university of Tennessee pic.twitter.com/78TpOpWUe2
— kayvon thibodeaux (@kayvonT8) August 5, 2016
Thibodeaux is just the latest 2019 prospect to garner interest from the Vols, as the country’s No. 2 overall recruit Owen Pappoe (Grayson High, Ga.) — who is scheduled to visit UT over the weekend — lists Tennessee among his top schools.
Meanwhile, the Vols dished out a bevy of offers to 2018 recruits over the last several days: 4-star defensive back Brendon Harris (Baylor School, Tenn.), 4-star defensive tackle Tyler Friday (Don Bosco Prep, N.J.), 4-star safety Josh Jobe (Columbus High, Fla.), 4-star receiver Amari Burney (Clearwater Catholic, Fla) and 3-star tight end Jarrett Jackson (Palm Beach Gardens High, Fla.)
Jobe is committed to Miami, while Harris is considered one of the best prospects in the state of Tennessee. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound corner attended a Vols camp in June.
— Brendon Harris♛ (@youngLharris) August 5, 2016
Friday is the No. 1 ranked prospect in New Jersey, and the 6-foot-3, 255-pound tackle already holds offers from Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State, among others. Jackson plays defensive end and tight end for Palm Beach Garden and picked up offers from Florida, Pittsburgh and Louisville earlier this summer.
Finally, Burney is teammates with 2017 UT cornerback commit CJ Cotman at Clearwater Central Catholic in Florida.
— Amari Burney (@1dream_nfl) August 3, 2016
Like Cotman, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound wideout has a relationship with Vols tights ends coach Larry Scott — formally an assistant and interim head coach in Miami.
Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey, who played at Miami from 1999-2004, told me last month, “You’re going to see more and more who want to go to Tennessee because of Coach (Scott). When you have a recruiter that has the background and guys can respect him and relate him, there’s going to be a lot more CJ Cotman’s headed that way.”
Could Burney be next?
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com