KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has filled the majority of its 2018 class with National Signing Day drawing to a close.
The Vols did not land a true cornerback among the 20 signees as of Wednesday night. Trevon Flowers has the potential to play the position but spent his senior season at safety. Tennessee has commitments from Brandon Davis and Joseph Norwood, who could play cornerback. Neither has signed, though.
Coach Jeremy Pruitt said at his news conference Wednesday that he didn’t think this was a pressing issue.
“Well, who said cornerback was a need in this class?” Pruitt said. “To me, I know some of the guys on our team and we got guys that can play cornerback. I think all of those guys can play multiple spots. So, I feel like we addressed our needs at the position.”
But it does appear to be a need for next season. Tennessee lost four cornerbacks from the 2017 roster.
Tennessee’s most experienced returning cornerbacks are junior Marquill Osborne and sophomore Shawn Shamburger. Shamburger saw meaningful playing time in only one game last season.
The lack of cornerback commits wasn’t for a lack of trying. The coaching staff targeted a number of playmakers at the positions but missed on 4-star prospects such as Jeremy Webb, Tyson Campbell, Olaijah Griffin, Eddie Smith, Taiyon Palmer and Isaac Taylor-Stuart. Tennessee came in second with more than half of those prospects.
Pruitt did leave the door open for some position changes for next season.
“Yeah, there probably are guys that will change positions this spring,” Pruitt said. “There might be several of them. Once we get out there and start running around a little bit, we will get a chance to evaluate folks. At the end of the day, you’ve got to get your best 22 on the field.”
The most likely candidate to move to cornerback would seem to be junior wide receiver Tyler Byrd. Byrd was a U.S. Army All-America cornerback in high school. He flashed big-play potential at wide receiver as a freshman, but his sophomore campaign with the Vols was spent in Butch Jones’ doghouse without much playing time.
Pruitt’s coaching strength is defensive backs. If there is any coach in the country who can develop the current cornerbacks on the roster, it is Pruitt.