The week leading up to the Under Armour All-America Game did not get off to a great start for Tennessee. That could be a harbinger of things to come.
On Monday, Cavin Ridley announced that he was no longer considering Tennessee, just Alabama and South Carolina.
The 4-star prospect from Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School was one of the highest remaining receiver prospects left on Tennessee’s board. It’s unclear why Ridley suddenly changed his tune about Tennessee. Perhaps it was mutual? That would explain such an abrupt about face. It’s hard to tell in the wild world of college football recruiting. Clearly, the Vols put their best foot forward throughout the process.
There’s probably not much Tennessee could have done to improve its position with Ridley even before Monday. His brother, Calvin Ridley, is a freshman receiver at Alabama. His recent official visit to South Carolina on Dec. 11 left a strong positive impression. Had the Vols made a list of three finalists, securing Ridley would have still been a long shot. There isn’t much lost there for the Vols.
Now it’s hard to predict where the Vols could turn to find another coveted receiver to fill out the 2016 class. There are challenges out of their control.
Mecole Hardman Jr., is the most prized receiver on Tennessee’s board. However, Alabama coach Nick Saban’s decision to hire former UGA assistant Jeremy Pruitt to be his defensive coordinator seems to have paved the way for Hardman to head to Tuscaloosa, Ala. The 5-star athlete from Elbert County High School (Elberton, Ga.) can get the best of both worlds: his favorite recruiter (Pruitt) and a better program (Alabama).
Receiver Donnie Corley seemed enamoured with Tennessee before postponing his announcement at least twice. That gives nearby schools like Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State longer to entice the 4-star prospect from Martin Luther King (Wyandotte, Mich.).
Even Miami has crept into the picture recently. Corley’s official visit to Tennessee in October seems like eons ago. Will that positive impression endure?
The Vols also appear to have slipped in the race for Velus Jones. Technically, the 3-star receiver from Saraland (Ala.) High School is still committed to Southern California. However, Oklahoma now looks like the team to beat. UGA has even jumped into the fray with a late scholarship offer.
Chances are a name will emerge in the five weeks before National Signing Day. Or a wayward prospect could rethink the direction he’s headed. Whichever the case, Tennessee could use the break. The Vols want to sign another receiver in the 2016 class. They’ve already had to cross off far too many.