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’s recruitment of linebacker Caleb Johnson and if it is only a matter of time until he commits.
Who is Tennessee leading?
Tennessee has lost steam on the recruiting trail over the past few weeks. This hasn’t stopped the Vols from continuing to pursue prospects in the Class of 2018.
The coaching staff has put a lot of time into recruiting linebacker Caleb Johnson, and the efforts are beginning to pay off. Johnson said the Vols might be leading pack for him, according to an interview with Chad Simmons, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.
“I like the people at Tennessee the most,” said Johnson, from Northside High School in Columbus, Ga. “The coaches, the players, the fans and just the people overall. The players push each other to get better and they work hard for each other. It has that family feel to it, and my interest in Tennessee is high.
“They are really up there for me. I would probably have Auburn and Georgia up there, too, but Tennessee is at least one of my top 2 schools — maybe No. 1.”
With how the season has gone for the Vols, being ahead of Auburn and Georgia in a recruiting battle is a win.
Why Tennessee holds the edge
The Vols are leading for Johnson for one simple reason: The coaching staff is outworking other teams.
“Coach Butch Jones called me on my birthday [last week], so that meant a lot,” Johnson said. “They are recruiting me the hardest and that really stands out to me. Tennessee is making me feel very important to them.”
Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen has developed probably the best relationship of any coach with Johnson. Thigpen was at Johnson’s game last Thursday to watch him play.
“Coach Thigpen really showed me a lot of attention and he helped me have a great time while I was there,” Johnson said. “We talked about my position, how they want me to rush the passer for them and how they feel I can come in and battle for playing time as a freshman.
“We had a good time together and we just built on our relationship. He showed me around a lot and it was great to spend time with him.”
Johnson has already taken his official visit to Knoxville, Tenn. It was for the Georgia game, which ended in a terrible 41-0 loss.
The game didn’t alter Johnson’s perception of the Vols, though.
“Tennessee did not have the best game, but the crowd was still great,” Johnson said. “It was my first time for a game there and I had heard about the fans, but it was even better than expected.
“Their fans are devout, they support their team and that showed me a lot. It was loud. It was 102,000 people. I liked it a lot.”
The official visit was Johnson’s sixth visit to Rocky Top in the past 18 months.
With the wheels seemingly falling off at Tennessee, the outworking others technique might be the staff’s best approach. At least it has worked so far for the class.
What it all means
I think the number of visits and positive remarks Johnson has made about the team and coaching staff means he will ultimately commit to the Vols. If a prospect takes that many visits to one school in that amount of time, it is almost a done deal.
Tennessee wants to add one more defensive prospect at this point. It might need to add more if prospects keep de-committing, though.
A linebacker who has the ability to rush off the edge is a prospect the Vols have looked at adding. Johnson rates as a 3-star prospect and ranks as the No. 37 weakside defensive end in the Class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Tennessee has one linebacker commit right now in Matthew Flint.
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