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 its surprising offer to a Class of 2020 defensive end.
Tennessee is making a habit of getting in on promising prospects early in the hopes of it paying off down the road. It’s a great strategy for a program that isn’t recruiting on the level of Alabama or Georgia — though that might be changing if coach Jeremy Pruitt can string together a couple of wins this fall.
Sometimes the offers come so early it even surprises the prospect. The Vols extended an offer to Class of 2020 defensive end Elijah Roberts on Saturday.
“It was very surprising,” Roberts told SEC Country. “I never had contact with any Tennessee coaches and they hadn’t come to see me. To get an offer was kind of surprising.”
I imagine the offer is to try to get Roberts to come up to campus sometime on a visit. He’s a Miami native and the staff is trying to establish a footprint in the area. They have pushed for defensive end Khris Bogle and wide receiver Kalani Norris.
Roberts is the latest in the push to open a pipeline from South Florida. Getting him or anyone from the area to come to Knoxville on unofficial visits or to camp is the tricky part. The coaching staff will push for it and Roberts is open to the idea of camping at Tennessee.
“Yes, I’m definitely going to talk to my family about it and see if I can get up there soon,” Roberts said.
The Vols join Miami, Syracuse and North Carolina as Roberts’ options to this point. The hometown Hurricanes will be the hardest team to overcome in this recruitment. He’s already visited a few times and has a good relationship with the coaching staff.
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Roberts also hasn’t given Tennessee much of a thought before Saturday. That has changed and the Vols are in the thick of his recruitment now.
“Oh yes of course,” Roberts said. “Every school that has offered is. There isn’t a school on my list that isn’t being considered right now. I have interest in every school.”
Pruitt’s staff places a lot of importance on their film study of prospects. They are looking for something specific from each prospect they evaluate. Roberts has the size and claims to do best on the field exactly what the staff is looking for at defensive end.
“I have great hands and great knowledge of football,” Roberts said. “I have a great IQ for football.”
Hand use is something the staff is particular about. They make it known when a prospect isn’t using their hands the right way. Roberts using his hands well to fight off blocks as a rising junior is a great quality and likely why he already has three Power 5 offers.
Roberts is going to take the recruiting process slowly. He won’t narrow his list for at least another year. A decision will probably be coming a little before signing day in 2020. He knows what he’s looking for as a deciding factor, though.
“The coaches who show me that it’s more than football,” Roberts said. “That it’s a family atmosphere. How they coach too. How they treat their players.”
This staff has shown with time they can build strong relationships with top prospects. If Roberts is open to leaving South Florida than Tennessee is in a good spot early to be a contender. The getting in early trend is something this staff will continue to explore.
Tennessee in Ishmael Burdine’s top 10
Another area Tennessee is trying to build a pipeline to is Louisiana. Pruitt hired David Johnson as the wide receivers coach, in part, because of his connections to the state.
The staff targeted Ishmael Burdine (Slidell, La.) soon after arriving on Rocky Top. They have kept up the recruitment, and he released his top 10 on Tuesday with some good Vols news.
TOP 1️⃣0️⃣‼️ (no order) pic.twitter.com/QDoT36J3XC
— Ishmael Burdine🦖™️ (@ish_burddd) May 22, 2018
Tennessee will battle out the rest of his recruitment with Mississippi State, Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Virginia and Tulane.
This is the kind of prospect from Louisiana that is smart for Tennessee to pursue. It’s not likely the Vols will be able to poach some of the best prospects from the area. They will probably end up at LSU or Alabama because they almost always end up there.
It’s unclear how hard Tennessee will push for him or when a decision will be made, but it is in the running for now. It’s a good spot to be.
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