KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us at SEC Country for the latest recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers.
Late in training camp, Volunteers coach Butch Jones was asked about Tennessee’s in-state recruiting.
The fourth-year head coach hemmed and hawed about how “in-state recruiting is everything” and “we have to find the right fit for the University of Tennessee.”
But those “fits” have been hard to wangle in 2017, as just 6 of Tennessee’s 24 commits in the 2017 class hail from the Volunteer State.
Remember Lane Kiffin trolling Tennessee this summer?
I’m on record believing the Vols will change that narrative during the 2018 cycle — as Jones knows he must close Tennessee’s leaky borders.
Tennessee high school football is better than it’s been in years — maybe ever. The Midstate’s growth has infused the area with more talent, as places like Nashville and Memphis are pumping out legit blue-chip prospects. This year, the state could produce a trio of consensus 5-stars (OL Trey Smith, WR Tee Higgins and ATH Jacoby Stevens) for the first time.
The foundation of the Volunteers current roster was built with in-state products, as 12 Tennessee kids — including tailback Jalen Hurd, receivers Josh Malone and Josh Smith, All-American defensive end Derek Barnett, linebacker Jalen Reeeves-Mayin and former 5-star offensive line prospect Drew Richmond — started against Appalachian State last Thursday.
Tennessee’s 2018 class began with a bang, reeling in the commitments of 5-star offensive tackle Cade Mays, a Vols legacy from Knoxville Catholic, and 4-star athlete Alontae Taylor, a two-way standout at Coffee County Central.
So who could be next?
Here’s 10 in-state products on Tennessee’s board for 2018.
1. DE Greg Emerson – The 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive end from North Side holds more than a dozen offers, including from Tennessee, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State and Georgia. Emerson is a Top-50 prospect and ranked as the No. 4 DE nationally in 2018. The Jackson native has already visited Tennessee a number of times and is a high-priority with Derek Barnett likely headed to the NFL after the season.
2. DT D’Andre Litaker – Litaker is teammates at Oakland with Stevens, a 2017 Top-50 prospect headed to LSU. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound tackle recently tore his ACL and will miss his junior season, but Litaker remains a valued prospect by schools across the Southeast. In addition to an early Tennessee offer, the 4-star recruit holds offers from Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Ole Miss, among others.
3. DT Brant Lawless – Notice a theme? The Volunteer State is loaded with defensive line talent in 2018, and the junior nose tackle from Nashville Christian School is another space-eater, weighing in at over 300 pounds at 6-foot-3. Like Emerson, Lawless is a 4-star recruit and holds an impressive offer sheet, with Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Oklahoma and LSU all in early on the promising defensive tackle.
4. CB Jaylon King – Tennessee loves its Jaylon’s — no matter the spelling. King is a long, lanky corner from Ensworth High in Nashville. The 6-foot, 165-pound prospect is a 4-star recruit, per Rivals.com. King attended a UT camp in June, earning an offer just two days later.
5. WR Jarak Campbell – The Volunteers were one of the first schools to offer Campbell, a slippery 5-foot-11, 185-pound receiver from Riverdale. The 3-star receiver visited Tennessee in April.
6. S Brendon Harris – Tennessee recently extended an offer the to 6-foot-2, 185-pound safety from Baylor School in nearby Chattanooga. The 4-star prospect also holds offers from Clemson, a potential early favorite, LSU, South Carolina, Alabama and Notre Dame.
7. ATH Gavin Schoenwald – Another Brentwood product, Shoenwald plays quarterback for the Eagles but he projects as a tight end or athlete at the next level. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound junior is a 4-star prospect, and he attended Tennessee’s satellite camp in Nashville this summer.
8. WR Justin Oden – The 6-foot-3, 158-pound receiver was slowed by a shoulder injury during his sophomore season at Spring Hill, but Oden still flashed enough to earn offers from Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. He’s made up for lost time in 2016, too, reeling in multiple touchdowns to start his junior season.
9. RB Master Teague – The Volunteers have a couple other out-of-state tailbacks a bit higher on their board (namely Fabian Franklin, a teammate of 2017 WR commit Jordan Murphy at Hattiesburg (Miss.) High), but Teague is definitely a back Tennessee is keeping its eye on. The 5-foot-10, 194-pound product from Blackman High is a 3-star recruit. Teague earned a UT offer following a camp in June.
10. WR Camron Johnson – The 6-foot, 182-pound receiver hails from the prestigious Brentwood Academy in Nashville — Barnett’s old stomping grounds. Johnson is a 4-star recruit and Top-150 prospect nationally, holding offers from UT, Auburn, LSU, Louisville and Ole Miss.
Volunteers commit receives good news
Riley Lockear will be an early enrollee at Tennessee after all.
The Volunteers 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive line commit made history Tuesday, becoming the first person from the Huntington County (W. Va.) school district to be approved to graduate in December.
Thank you! Very honored to have been approved as Wayne County's first ever early graduating senior. pic.twitter.com/EGZJttJreB
— Riley Locklear™ (@LocklearRiley) September 6, 2016
Tennessee's 2017 OT commit officially allowed to early enroll. Told me he's "very blessed" by school board decision. https://t.co/vvY2X1q7VD
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) September 6, 2016
The Spring Valley product told me it was “a huge change” for the county’s school board to approve such a decision, adding that the news was “a blessing.”
Earlier this summer, Locklear detailed to me about the uphill battle he faced to become an early enrollee, saying he considered opportunity “a privilege” and was “looking forward to see what happened.”
On Tuesday it happened, and that’s good news for Tennessee, as Locklear projects as a versatile lineman who could play a number of positions along the line in the future for the Volunteers.
Tennessee offers 5-star Penn State commit
Micah Parsons, a 5-star defensive end from Central Dauphin (Penn.) in the Class of 2018, received an offer from Tennessee on Tuesday night.
— #blessed⭐️MVP™ (@Micah_Parsons90) September 7, 2016
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound pass rusher committed to the Nittany Lions in February. Parsons, an Army All-American, holds more than a dozen offers and is the nation’s No. 5 overall prospect, per 247Sports.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for SECCountry.com