Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said in his introductory press conference in December that he believed Tennessee was a national brand that could draw interest from the top prospects in the county.
Pruitt looked correct on Saturday when outside linebacker JJ Peterson committed to the Vols during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Peterson chose Tennessee over Alabama and Georgia.
Peterson has never taken a visit to Knoxville, though that will change next weekend. He didn’t need to see the campus to believe Pruitt was the best coach to get him to the NFL. That is Peterson’s main goal, getting to the NFL to provide for his family.
Relationships are something Peterson values over almost anything else. His best relationship with a coach was with Pruitt while he was at Alabama. Peterson’s loyalty moved to Rocky Top when Tennessee hired Pruitt.
Then Pruitt hired Georgia outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer to run the defense. Sherrer was the lead recruiter at Georgia for Peterson.
With Pruitt and Sherrer on board, Tennessee took an early lead no team could catch.
Peterson rates as 4-star prospect and ranks as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the Class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Peterson fits the 3-4 defensive scheme Pruitt wants to put into place next season. There really isn’t anyone on the roster who can do what Peterson does on the field.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound prospect from Moultrie, Ga., brings good size with solid athleticism to the Vols. Peterson returned kicks for Colquitt County High School, underscoring that athleticism.
Peterson has the potential to see early meaningful playing time next season.
Tennessee now holds 18 commitments in the Class of 2018. The class ranks No. 16 in the country and moves just ahead of Florida, according to the 247Sports composite team rankings.