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 hosting an important defensive back this weekend.
Tennessee hosting top Class of 2019 and 2020 prospects is becoming a common occurrence under new coach Jeremy Pruitt. The Vols are set to host one of the best Class of 2020 safeties in Nehki Meredith this Saturday.
Meredith, a 4-star prospect, wants to get to Knoxville to get a better feel for the coaching staff and see if he fits well on Rocky Top.
“To build a stronger bond with coach [Charles] Kelly and Coach Pruitt,” Meredith told SEC Country on why he was coming to visit Tennessee. “Coach Montario [Hardesty] talked with my parents and said Coach Kelly loves how I play on the field.”
Meredith’s favorite player is Los Angeles Rams free safety Lamarcus Joyner, which Meredith believes might have endured himself to the staff. Pruitt and Kelly coached at Florida State while Joyner was a Seminoles standout.
This is a reason Tennessee is starting to stand out to Meredith and other elite defensive backs. The coaching staff has a history of putting players in the NFL. There aren’t many other staffs in the country that have a better reputation of helping defensive backs reach their potential.
“Yeah, that’s very important,” Meredith said. “I want to go somewhere I can compete, and they can bring the best out of me.”
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Meredith has some of the traits Pruitt is looking for at the position. He says he likes delivering big hits and making big plays in coverage. He had 5 interceptions last season for Bishop Sullivan Catholic in Virginia Beach, Va.
The physicality plus an eye for the ball had to have caught Pruitt’s eye. He wants free safeties to play a center fielder role and intercept passes thrown in the middle of the field. Meredith seems to fit the coaching staff’s criteria fairly well.
No offer, yet
Meredith hasn’t received an offer from Tennessee, but that almost surely will change this weekend. The coaching staff might be waiting to be in person to make the offer stand out a little bit more.
“It’d be crazy,” Meredith said if the Tennessee offer comes this weekend. “It’d be very high on my list. I’m very interested in Tennessee. I like them.”
There is interest in Tennessee mainly because of the coaching staff and its backgrounds. Pruitt has assembled a staff that has won multiple championships and placed plenty of people in the NFL.
Meredith is a strong believer in what the staff will do on Rocky Top and potentially for him.
“I feel like the coaching staff is going to change the program around,” Meredith said. “I’d get an opportunity to be coached by the best.”
This is a critical visit because Tennessee is in on Meredith so early before his recruitment takes off. The offers will start rolling in for Meredith, but Tennessee would be one of the first ones to give him the star treatment.
There is plenty of time left in Meredith’s recruitment, and he wants to wait to see where all the interest starts to come from before rushing into a decision. He doesn’t see himself drawing out a long recruitment, though.
“I’m not going to wait,” Meredith said. “I’m not going to wait too long to commit to a school. I want to build that bond with my coaches and get my spot with my coach.”
Meredith said he will choose the school where the coaching staff proves to him he’s truly a wanted member of the class. With his talent, I don’t think too many staffs will be hard-pressed to really want Meredith in the class.
This is why it is so important Tennessee has gotten in on Meredith so early, and I think that will keep the Vols in the conversation until Meredith makes his decision.
Darel Middleton intent on 2018
There were probably more questions than answers on Thursday when defensive tackle Darel Middleton committed to play for the Vols.
One thing that is clear after swapping a few messages with Middleton this weekend is that he believes he will play for the Vols this season. He also doesn’t think he will miss a beat on the football field despite not playing football last season.
Middleton enrolled at East Mississippi Community College in January. He is trying to get to Knoxville sooner than later.
The coaching staff likely feels the same way. Middleton is a great talent and could help a Vols defensive line not really built for the 3-4 system it will run this season.
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