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 recruitment of a versatile in-state athlete.
A different atmosphere
The new coaching staff on Rocky Top has picked up a lot of buzz across recruiting circles. Tennessee has cast a wider net and has jumped onto the radars of many Class of 2019 and 2020 prospects during the past few months.
Among the things standing out to these prospects: visits to Knoxville. Athletic director Phillip Fulmer held the philosophy when he was the coach that if he got a prospect on campus, Tennessee had a legitimate shot in the recruitment.
Coach Jeremy Pruitt has done a good job of impressing prospects when they get on campus. Last weekend was generally a positive junior day for the staff. In-state athlete Jashon Watkins noticed the difference between Pruitt’s staff and Butch Jones’ staff.
“It’s a different atmosphere,” Watkins told SEC Country. “I really have a connection with these coaches. Last year, I had an alright connection. These coaches are recruiting me more, they are really interested in me more than the last coaches.”
This was Watkins’ first trip to Knoxville with Pruitt in charge. He came to campus from Nashville, Tenn., two or three times in the past year to visit with Jones’ staff.
The trip was good enough for Watkins to think about taking another trip back, although nothing is set.
“It was great,” Watkins said. “I got to meet with some of the coaches and talk with them. Overall, it was great.
“The attention the coaches gave me [was the best part].”
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Watkins is an intriguing prospect because of his versatility. He plays wide receiver and cornerback for East Nashville Magnet School and could play either position in college. It doesn’t matter which to Watkins, he just wants to get onto the field.
“The DB coach and the offensive coach are fighting over me right now,” Watkins said. “They really don’t know. It’s up for grabs if I go there.”
Watkins feels he plays both positions well. If he comes to Tennessee, he has the size and athleticism Pruitt values.
“Score and lock people up,” Watkins said. “[I’m effective] with my size, length and speed.”
Where the recruitment stands
Tennessee impressed Watkins with a good visit, but this will be a tough recruitment to win.
Watkins is beings pursued heavily by a bunch of top-tier schools such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Memphis and UCF. Alabama and LSU are also entering the picture. He plans to visit Arkansas and possibly Memphis this week. Alabama and LSU likely will get a visit from the 4-star athlete at some point.
Watkins hears from the Tennessee staff regularly, and that might be what separates the Vols from other suitors.
“Coaches taking time out of their day to really recruit me,” Watkins said of what would be a deciding factor in his recruitment. “And if I really enjoy the school. What I can offer the program and the school.”
The previous coaching staff had success with some in-state prospects by inspiring them to play for their in-state school. This idea is not lost on Watkins, although it likely won’t be the ultimate determinant.
“I would take pride in playing in-state because it’s where I’m from,” Watkins said. “I would like to put on for my state.”
A decision likely won’t be coming any time soon, but Watkins wants to narrow his list in the coming months.
“Probably going into senior year,” Watkins said. “I want to narrow down the list to a few schools to focus on and worry about the season.”
Tennessee makes the cut
Devin Bush, a 4-star cornerback from Edna Karr High School in New Orleans, trimmed his list to five during the weekend, with the Vols making the cut.
Top5️⃣ Top5️⃣ Top5️⃣ pic.twitter.com/CzxOKlLyQ3
— Devin C. Bush5️⃣ (@Dev_Bush1) March 10, 2018
Tennessee will battle the rest of his recruitment with LSU, Auburn, Oklahoma and Clemson.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Bush is ranked as the No. 15 cornerback nationally in the Class of 2019, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Cornerback is a position of critical need for the Vols.
Tennessee hosted Bush on junior day last weekend. The coaching staff will continue pushing for another visit to Knoxville.
The Vols are surely selling early playing time.
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