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 recently hosting an important in-state prospect.
Young staff impressing
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt assembled his staff in the hopes of bringing the Vols back to winning at the highest level. All bring a strong background and most have great recruiting histories.
The coaching staff has been one of the most attractive things to prospects visiting Tennessee recently. Omari Thomas is one of the best in-state prospects in the Class of 2020 and he might end up being one of the best defensive linemen in the class. He’s the latest prospect to come away impressed with the new Tennessee staff.
“The facilities and the campus are very nice, but the coaching staff is what stood out to me the most,” Thomas told SEC Country.
The Vols don’t have a lot to sell at this point in the recruiting process. The program is coming off its worst record in school history and the team is undergoing a rebuild. It’s unclear how long it’ll take for Pruitt to successfully implement his 3-4 defense. No one knows what offensive coordinator Tyson Helton’s offense will look like.
Every SEC school has great facilities. No school has a stadium quite like Neyland, but big, impressive stadiums don’t stand out as much as they did a few decades ago. The last time Tennessee won an SEC Championship, current prospects hadn’t been born.
Pruitt has assembled a young staff that is made up of people he trusts. He’s coached with a lot of them and many were his friends before coming to Tennessee. The camaraderie of the staff has stood out recruits, including Thomas.
“It’s just the high energy and competitive personality they have,” he said. “Honestly, every coach I met was that way, from the strength and conditioning to Coach Pruitt.”
Pruitt has been a successful recruiter because of his ability to build relationships. This might have been what hampered the 2018 class from signing some of the bigger prospects. Pruitt had only about two months before National Signing Day to put together a class. The staff took some swings at top prospects such as Quay Walker and Isaac Taylor-Stuart but didn’t have enough time to build the relationships.
Pretty much every top prospect that comes to campus gets to have a private chat with Pruitt. The first-year coach has a knack for finding out what is most important to a prospect while keeping things casual.
“It was a very good one,” Thomas said. “He was talking about how he is looking for guys like me to come in on the defensive side of the ball and produce for the team. We also just talked about my summer basketball.”
Tennessee did a good job of standing out to the top prospect from the Memphis area in the Class of 2020. Pruitt has said the Vols would be a factor in that area of the state. Getting a prospect such as Thomas is important.
It won’t be easy, though. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Thomas visited Ole Miss three times last month. Ole Miss’ campus is a little more than an hour from where Thomas goes to school. LSU also talks to Thomas regularly and he’s intrigued by the prospect of being coached by Ed Orgeron.
Tennessee will have to ride the momentum from the solid visit and keep up the communication with Thomas. He hears from coaches Will Friend or Tracy Rocker about every week.
“I don’t have any plans for as in the close future, but I definitely will be back down there,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he wants to see a game in Neyland this fall. Look for the staff to push for a visit for either the Florida or Alabama game.
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