Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest Tennessee recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers. Check out previous editions here. In this edition, we discuss Tennessee receiving a commitment from outside linebacker JJ Peterson and what it means for the Vols.
What JJ Peterson brings
Tennessee picked up one of the best linebackers in the country this past weekend when JJ Peterson committed to the Vols. It wasn’t much of a surprise when he picked up the orange hat since he had been telling people he was a Vol.
Peterson made the announcement during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. When asked what he would bring to Tennessee, he had an easy, telling answer.
“Everything,” Peterson quickly responded.
RELATED: 2018 Tennessee recruiting big board
Peterson won’t bring a lot of words, but that’s just fine. Coach Jeremey Pruitt has bigger plans for him than giving rousing speeches.
Peterson rates as a 4-star prospect and ranks as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the Class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
The Moultrie, Ga., native figures to be an early contributor to the defense next season. Pruitt will transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme with more emphasis on linebackers. The Vols don’t have a player on the roster who fits into the pass-rushing linebacker role. Jonathan Kongbo might make the move from defensive end to linebacker, but he has never been too productive in his time on Rocky Top.
At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Peterson comes in with the size to potentially hold his own in the SEC right away. The coaching staff might need him to.
Peterson also brings intangibles. Pruitt is trying to shape the culture on Rocky Top likely into something closely relating Alabama.
Adding hard-working prospects such as Peterson is a step in that direction.
Players in the Class of 2018 have begun saying they will bring a change to Knoxville. With prospects such as Peterson coming into the fold, it might be the case.
Why JJ Peterson chose Tennessee
Peterson didn’t have any interest in Tennessee a month ago. Then Pruitt was hired away from Alabama and everything changed.
He quickly started trending toward the Vols despite never taking a visit to Knoxville.
The campuses don’t make as big of a difference for a prospect such as Peterson. His views are higher than just the college game.
Peterson is more interested in relationships and coaching, which will help him get to the NFL.
Pruitt had the best relationship with Peterson throughout the recruiting process, which is why he was an Alabama lean before the Pruitt hire. Pruitt then added Georgia linebacker coach Kevin Sherrer, who was Peterson’s lead recruiter for the Bulldogs. This was enough to push the Vols over the top.
Add that to his high school friendship with current players Shawn Shamburger and Ja’Quain Blakely, and Tennessee felt comfortable regardless of the campus feel.
The coaching is clearly top-notch at the linebacker position, too. On Monday night, Pruitt’s Tide defense and Sherrer’s linebacker group at Georgia will take college football’s biggest stage in the National Championship Game.
Peterson has NFL potential; this coaching staff looks like it knows how to unlock it.
Where the commitment leaves the class
Tennessee now holds commitments from 18 prospects in the Class of 2018. The class now ranks fifth in the SEC and No. 16 in the nation.
The Vols have one linebacker signee in junior college transfer Jordan Allen. Matthew Flint is a linebacker commit who was expected to sign in December but held off. This could signal the coaching staff isn’t sure of his fit with the new system or in the class.
Flint remains committed at this point, though.
Pruitt has done a lot to not only save this class in a short amount of time, but he has turned it into a top class. The class still can climb higher in the rankings with a few more additions.
Miss a previous edition? Find all your SEC Country Tennessee Vols recruiting news here.