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 trying to break into the recruiting hotbed of Louisiana.
Risky Louisiana pursuit
Tennessee brought in wide receivers coach David Johnson with a price tag of $505,000 a year. He comes from Memphis, where he did fine things with the receivers. I suspect he will do the same on Rocky Top, but he has a bigger objective from coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Win recruiting battles in Louisiana.
SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman is an expert on Louisiana recruiting. He has seen the Vols trending up since Pruitt took over.
“Expect the addition of David Johnson to yield positive results for Tennessee recruiting the state of Louisiana, particularly in the greater New Orleans area,” Spiegelman said. “Johnson, who was exceptional recruiting in The Boot during his time at Memphis, has already made a big splash in Louisiana’s 2019 crop. Offers have been fished out and Johnson’s relationships with high school coaches have led to early visits.
“Both top-shelf and 3-star prospects are giving higher consideration to the Vols because of Johnson, a New Orleans native, and that should develop into a positive trend moving forward.”
It is a gamble for Tennessee to put so much effort into Louisiana. The Vols aren’t just dipping a toe in and lightly talking to a few top prospects. The coaching staff is establishing relationships with 3-star prospects.
Having success in the area might turn into an indicator of Pruitt’s success in Knoxville. Tennessee hasn’t had much success in Louisiana, with only three players on the 2017 roster from the Pelican State.
It is an area historically dominated by LSU and Alabama. The Tigers and Crimson Tide have combined to land 68 percent of the top 15 prospects in the last three recruiting cycles.
Pruitt’s Alabama ties might provide some insight into why this area has been a priority since he took over. There is plenty of talent, and Tennessee is relying on Johnson to get a foot in the door and develop a new recruiting pipeline.
Impressing Louisiana prospects
Caleb Etienne is a 3-star offensive lineman who could be a good fit in Tennessee’s new power-running offense. At 6-foot-6, 305 pounds Etienne is a physical blocker who has the frame to potentially develop into an anchor on the line.
The coaching staff seems to think the same and has put a good amount of time into recruiting Etienne.
“Tennessee has been talking to me a lot,” Etienne told SEC Country. “I’d say Tennessee [is recruiting the hardest] right now.”
Etienne visited Knoxville on March 3, which was Tennessee’s junior day.
“It was a nice experience; I liked it,” Etienne said. “I liked the environment. It’s really nice up there. They had nice coaches. I see what they are building.”
Johnson’s work ethic, connections and familiarity with the area is a big reason the Vols are having success in the area.
“I think he’s a great coach,” Etienne said. “He grew up in the same area as me. I can relate to him. He’s a nice coach.
“I talk to [the staff] often. We talk about every other day.”
Etienne, who said Tennessee can “absolutely” build a recruiting pipeline in Louisiana, does not have a set timetable to make a decision in his recruitment.
Louisianans filling out recruiting class
Tennessee typically has filled the edges of its recruiting classes with in-state prospects. It makes sense. Many of the prospects grew up with some fandom for the Vols.
This coaching staff might look at Louisiana and North Carolina as alternatives as it assembles the 2019 class.
Louisiana linebacker Bryton Constantin listed Tennessee in his top 8 on Monday along with Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Clemson, Auburn, Florida, TCU and Houston.
Elite 8…🎒 pic.twitter.com/0xVAbt2lFy
— 🏴 Bryton Constantin (@Kxng_Bryton) March 12, 2018
Constantin is a 3-star prospect whom Johnson has targeted in the Class of 2019. The Baton Rouge, La., native has good film but is in the mold of a player a team would take to add some numbers.
However it shakes out, Louisiana looms larger in Tennessee’s recruiting plans.
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