Butch Jones is having one of his best years ever on the Tennessee recruiting trail since he arrived and that has a lot to do with how he’s recruited within the state.
Right now, the Vols have 13 members and eight of those are from the state of Tennessee. Of the top nine players in the state by 247Sports composite rankings — all of which are 4-star players or higher — five are already committed to Tennessee and two others have yet to commit anywhere.
With the addition of 4-star defensive tackle D’Andre Litaker on Tuesday, here’s where the Vols’ 7th-ranked Class of 2018 stands with in-state talent:
5-star OT Cade Mays, Knoxville, Tenn., No. 1/No. 13 (state/national)
4-star ATH Alontae Taylor, Manchester, Tenn., No. 4/No. 122
4-star S Brendon Harris, Chattanooga, Tenn., No. 6/No. 225
4-star DT D’Andre Litaker, Murfreesboro, Tenn., No. 7/No. 240
4-star DT Brant Lawless, Nashville, Tenn., No. 9/No. 291
3-star TE Jacob Warren, Knoxville, Tenn., No. 18/No. 631
3-star OG Ollie Lane, Corryton, Tenn., No. 22/No. 757
3-star ATH Shatar McClay, Clarksville, Tenn., No. 32/NR
Given Tennessee’s success within the state and the number of spots still open to fill, it’s pretty much a guarantee that the Vols will continue to hammer in-state prospects to maintain its solid overall standing.
But what if we took that to the extreme? That is, what would Tennessee’s remaining class look like if the open spots only went to in-state prospects? Of course, that’s not a likely scenario and it wouldn’t be advised. While Tennessee’s talent pool is as deep as its ever been, it’s hardly deep enough for the Vols to get 20 Power-5 quality players.
But there is some value in a thought exercise like this. Because of Tennessee’s in-state focus, it’s likely that there will be players from the state that aren’t necessarily on the radar that could pop up late in the recruiting cycle as the finishing pieces.
So with that in mind, here are the 12 players that could fill out a hypothetical 25-man Class of 2018:
4-star DT Greg Emerson, Jackson, Tenn., No. 2/No. 75 — Emerson is the last big in-state prize that the Vols are seriously targeting for 2018, and so far it looks like Tennessee is the front runner. Emerson is one of the best players in the country and is the final piece to the state’s big three defensive tackles along with Lawless and Litaker. With 20 offers, Tennessee has some staunch competition for Emerson, who has already included the Vols in his top six along with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Oregon. Unlike his other two big three counterparts, Emerson’s recruitment isn’t anywhere near the finish line. He indicated to SEC Country in March that he’d decided in December if he enrolls early and if not, he’d take it all the way to National Signing Day.
3-star OT Jerome Carvin, Cordova, Tenn., No. 10/No. 374 — Likely a guard at the next level, Carvin would certainly be a huge addition to go along with Mays on the offensive line — quite literally at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds. Tennessee did crack Carvin’s top 10, although things seem to be trending in Alabama’s direction right now. Carvin will be one to watch this summer, though, as he’s said he’d like to make his decision before his senior season, which almost guarantees that he’ll make at least one more visit to Rocky Top before the end of the summer.
3-star ATH Jaylon King, Nashville, Tenn., No. 13/No. 475 — While the safety position is in great shape for the Vols right now, corner is not so much. Tennessee will need to hit that position hard in the Class of 2018 to regain some depth, which is why it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tennessee take two more corners in addition to McClay and 3-star corner Brandon Cross. King is certainly one of the better defensive backs left on the Vols’ board, although with just eight offers so far, there’s a good chance that the competition picks up into the summer.
3-star RB Master Teague III, Murfreesboro, Tenn., No. 14/No. 504 — Yes, Teague is committed to Ohio State, which swooped in and stole one of the nation’s most underrated running backs at the last second when it looked like either Georgia, Tennessee or Auburn would land his services. Still, if Tennessee were actually to try to fill its running back needs within the state for the Class of 2018, it’d almost certainly have to try to flip Teague. Behind him, there isn’t another running back ranked within the top 1,000 players in the nation in the Volunteer state. With Teague an unlikely flip, you can almost bet on Tennessee going outside of the state for at least one running back in the Class of 2018.
3-star WR Tykee Ogle-Kellogg, Alcoa, Tenn., No. 20/No. 696 — Tennessee already has a pretty good base for its receivers in the Class of 2018, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Vols land Ogle-Kellogg and sit fast with a threesome of him, Taylor and 3-star receiver Jatavious Harris. Ogle-Kellogg was all set to make his commitment in late March but then unexpectedly pushed that decision date back. Since then, it’s been very quiet on his recruiting trail, although Tennessee is still the favorite.
3-star OT Tanner Antonutti, Nashville, Tenn., No. 25/No. 899 — Antonutti is an interesting prospect because he could play either tight end or offensive line at the next level. Regardless of where he settles, he’d be a great asset in two tight end sets or as an extra offensive lineman in goal-line situations. Right now, it looks like it’s going to be a fight between the Vols, Mississippi State and Louisville for him.
3-star OT Briason Mays, Bolivar, Tenn., No. 26/No. 917 — Tennessee doesn’t appear to be connected to Mays at this point, but it needs to continue to build depth on the offensive line and he’s one of the more highly rated offensive linemen in the state. Depending on what happens with Carvin and Antonutti, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vols get involved later.
3-star CB Rayshad Williams, Memphis, Tenn., No. 27/No. 972 — Williams is the next best corner in the state behind King. Right now, Tennessee is in third on his list behind Virginia Tech and Arkansas. Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are also in the mix.
3-star RB Jeremy Banks, Cordova, Tenn., No. 30/No. 1,069 — There are a few running backs in the state that fall between the 1,000 and 1,200 rank nationally, none of which have been connected to Tennessee thus far. Banks would make the most sense out of the group, given that he’s the highest ranked of the bunch and he’s teammates with Carvin, a top Vols target. If things go wrong with players like Tae Provens or Anthony Grant, it would make sense for Tennessee to turn its attention to some of its in-state talent.
3-star OLB Jay Person, Cleveland, Tenn., No. 36/No. 1,156 — Tennessee hasn’t been connected to Person yet, but the class still lacks any linebackers. Person has certainly drawn interest from some SEC schools already including Mississippi State, Missouri, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina, although just the former two have extended an offer. Still, it wouldn’t be unrealistic for Tennessee to get involved later as other linebacker targets make their decisions.
3-star OLB Marquis Traylor, Brighton, Tenn., N0. 45/No. 1,308 — Traylor falls into the same category as Person in that Tennessee needs linebackers but there isn’t a connection there yet. Traylor has just one offer, from Rutgers, so this is probably a bit of a long shot but it’s always possible that a late-blooming relationship should develop.
3-star DE Nonte Davis, Columbia, Tenn., No. 47/No. 1,394 — While Tennessee has a fantastic class of defensive tackles poised to join the team in 2018, there hasn’t been much to develop on the edge rusher front for the Vols. Tennessee has scouted Davis but he doesn’t have an offer yet, but that could change as the summer goes on.
And just for fun, using the 247Sports class calculator tool, this class would’ve finished ranked exactly the same nationally as it did in 2017 with an overall score just above the 236.15 that the class scored last season.