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 and getting into the recruitment process early for a 2020 prospect.
Tennessee fans might be expecting a great 2019 class but 2020 might end up being an all-time best for the Vols. The coaching staff has done an excellent job getting in early with a number of 2020 prospects and I believe it’ll pay off in a big way for the Vols down the line.
Tennessee extended an offer to wide receiver Antonio Barber on Tuesday. The offer wasn’t a surprise, but it was an important one to the rising junior.
“I’ve kind of been waiting on the offer from Tennessee,” Barber told SEC Country. “It’s been a wait and see approach. I visited there about a month or so ago. Just to build a relationship with Coach [Jeremy] Pruitt and Coach [Brian] Niedermeyer. I knew I’d get the offer, it was just a matter of time. That’s been an offer I’ve always wanted. I’ve always wanted to play at Tennessee. I had a cousin, Jonathan Hefney, play at Tennessee. It’s always been one of my dream schools. It was kind of big to me.”
Barber hears from tight end coach Niedermeyer the most even though he’s being recruited to play wide receiver. He and Pruitt have been impressed with the film they’ve seen.
“They told me how they watched my film again,” Barber said. “He was telling me how they loved it. They told me I’d be a great fit for Tennessee and they want me to be a part of the 2020 class and play receiver.”
Barber is quite the impressive athlete. The 6-foot, 180-pound Rock Hill, S.C. native might be as good of a basketball player as he is a football player. However, his future is in football where he is learning how to harness his athleticism and turn it into plays for the offense.
“My explosiveness,” Barber said. “Being a deep-threat to defensive backs. It opens up the running game for the offense. I think my explosiveness is the best thing I bring to the table.”
Most Class of 2020 prospects would probably want to wait until at least after their junior seasons to make a decision. That’s not the case for Barber. I get the sense he’s not really one that seeks the spotlight and attention from recruiting. He’s too business-oriented for that.
“I’ve been looking at trying to make a decision before this upcoming season,” Barber said. “That way I get everything out of the way this summer. So I can focus on athletics, getting stronger and everything.”
He wants to take unofficial visits this summer and decide where to go after that. He plans to make a return visit to Knoxville in four or five weeks. He’ll then make a cross-country tour of schools: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Southern Cal, UCLA, UCF, Miami, Florida State. He knows exactly what he’ll be looking for on the visits, too.
“Just give everything a strong look when I take my visits this summer,” Barber said. “Try to see what I want to major in in college. Looking at the recruits in front of me and see how many commits and offers they have out. See the guys I’d be coming in with. Hopefully, I’d be coming in with a good quarterback that’s a gunslinger.”
Barber visited Tennessee on Feb. 16, so the return visit will be his first since getting the Tennessee offer. The work ethic of the team stood out.
“Seeing the guys in the weight room even after workouts getting after it,” Barber said. “Guys on the field putting in work. I liked it because I like to work hard.”
A brief side note. This should be an exciting culture change if you’re a Tennessee fan. Pruitt instilling a desire to work hard beyond the requirements is a great sign for a team that needs to improve in multiple ways before the 2018 season.
The Tennessee football Twitter and Instagram accounts received criticism by college football fans and former Tennessee players for this graphic.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) April 24, 2018
The graphic points to the players the current coaching staff has put into the NFL in their careers. A great idea, the only problem, if it even is a problem, is the mention of Alabama and Georgia players.
Former Tennessee players Ramon Foster and Robert Ayers both commented on the Instagram post expressing their displeasure. The post was subsequently deleted. Their problems with the post were there are plenty of former Vols in the NFL, such as them. Why not sing the praises of the prospects who played on Rocky Top, not their rivals.
That’s a fair point.
Why not both though? Tennessee should promote the players who made it to the highest level that came through the program. They should be promoting the players each coach has put into the NFL, too. Even if it happens to be a rival school. It’s been a major selling point for this coaching staff since they were hired.
It catches prospects’ eyes that this staff had a hand in shaping Jalen Ramsey’s trajectory. It matters that defensive line coach Tracy Rocker put Demarcus Ware in the NFL. Quarterbacks pay attention when offensive coordinator Tyson Helton brings up Sam Darnold.
I think Tennessee is wise to push both angles because both matter to recruits.
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