RIVERVIEW, Fla. — Tennessee has lost two quarterback prospects within 24 hours, triggering a QB recruiting crisis on Rocky Top not seen since 2009 when Lane Kiffin replaced Phillip Fulmer as head coach.
Back then, Kiffin famously ditched Fulmer commits Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty, both of whom went on to have great success as leaders and record breakers at Clemson and Baylor, respectively.
The Vols’ current recruiting ranking has dropped to No. 46 in the nation — three spots behind Cincinnati — after quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Michael Penix fell from Tennessee’s 2018 commitment list.
The pressure is on Jeremy Pruitt and his staff to deliver a quarterback by Dec. 20, the start of the early signing period.
The Vols once had the nation’s No. 5-ranked recruiting class — No. 1 in the SEC — before the 2017 season unraveled with excruciating defeats and numerous injuries en route to the first eight-loss campaign in program history and the firing of Butch Jones on Nov. 12.
Tennessee’s commit list has dwindled to 10 players with five de-commits since Pruitt was introduced as head coach last Thursday.
Pruitt has made a strong initial impression with the Vols, setting goals high, and leaving no doubt of his intensity and urgency to improve the program and get Tennessee back at a championship level.
No one said the start of his tenure would be easy, as he’s searching out players who he believes fit his program.
That has led to some bumps in the road, and the most major to this point has been at quarterback in the recruiting process.
Penix, an athletic and disciplined pro-style quarterback in the Josh Dobbs mold, exchanged a look of surprise on Wednesday night in his living room when his mother read from her phone aloud, “Now Martinez is going to Nebraska?”
Penix, who had been committed to the Vols since last April, had gotten a call from new Tennessee assistant Tyson Helton around 4 p.m. on Wednesday telling him not to come on his official visit this weekend.
“They told Michael they were bringing in a pro-style quarterback,” Penix’s father, Michael Sr. said. “What confused us about that is Michael is a pro-style quarterback.”
The quarterback Tennessee is reportedly bringing in for an official visit is Cal commit JT Shrout, who at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, compares with the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Penix.
While Martinez is headed for Nebraska, even after Helton and Pruitt visited him on Monday, it’s hard to say where Penix will end up.
Penix is contemplating offers from Florida State, South Florida and Thursday Indiana is coming in for a home visit.
Back in 2009, Kiffin told Petty and Boyd that their scholarship offers were no longer valid and instead recruited California high school quarterback Tyler Bray.
Boyd — with help from a then-Atlanta area quarterback coach named Tee Martin — found his way to Clemson after Kiffin rejected him.
Bray put up big numbers at Tennessee, but he had questionable character and leadership skills in college that led to him going undrafted despite his obvious passing talents.
Bray, it’s worth noting, has clearly matured, having gone on to a profitable NFL career as a backup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s far too early to draw any conclusions about Tennessee’s current QB recruiting situation, as Pruitt’s young staff is believed to have great promise and has the confidence of Fulmer, a first-ballot Hall of Fame head coach now serving as the Vols’ athletic director.
But Tennessee’s immediate quarterback situation is such that the Vols desperately need a quarterback signee in the class, whoever that ends up being.
WATCH: Michael Penix discusses what happened with Tennessee
QB Michael Penix discusses his recruitment
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Wednesday, December 13, 2017