What Jeremy Pruitt thinks of where Tennessee football stands with 2021 recruiting class
All stayed quiet on the Tennessee football recruiting front during the first day of the early signing period – unusually quiet.
Jeremy Pruitt has gained a reputation throughout his time as Tennessee's coach for making moves on signing day, but Wednesday unfolded in a straightforward manner.
The Vols announced 16 signees to their 2021 recruiting class. All but one were committed to Tennessee entering the day.
Georgia Military College’s three-star defensive end Byron Young was the lone uncommitted prospect who joined the class, boosting a position that needed help.
“It’s a class that we’re excited about, and we’re excited about adding to it,” Pruitt said.
No Vols commitments made a last-minute flip to another school, as Tennessee prevented a major rankings slide despite the team’s 3-6 record.
But defensive end Dylan Brooks and wide receiver Jordan Mosley will make Tennessee sweat, with plans to wait to sign until February. They are four-star prospects who are cornerstone members of this class.
Tennessee should gain at least one more signature during this signing window, which concludes Friday. Three-star defensive tackle Isaac Washington plans to sign Friday.
Tennessee’s recruiting class ranked 15th nationally and sixth in the SEC in the 247Sports Composite rankings as of Wednesday evening. Those rankings include prospects who are committed but unsigned.
At one time, UT's recruiting class was ranked second nationally. The Vols did better than anyone at getting prospects to commit early. Traditional powers surpassed them in the rankings as signing day neared, and Tennessee’s on-field performance didn’t set the stage for a big recruiting finish.
Teams may sign up to 25 players, giving the Vols room to maneuver in the February signing period, while also keeping open the possibility of adding transfers.
“With our remaining spots, we’ll fill up pretty fast,” Pruitt said. “I’m very confident of that.”
The day passed differently than the first day of the early period last year, when Tennessee inked 21 prospects, including five who entered the day not committed to UT.
Tennessee also gained commitments from five players not pledged to the Vols on early signing day in Pruitt’s inaugural class. In the 2019 class, the Vols added three uncommitted prospects during the early period before a splashy finish in February.
Tennessee’s remaining work primarily will come on defense, with 10 of Wednesday’s signees projected to play offense.
That includes Kaidon Salter, the nation’s sixth-ranked dual-threat quarterback who signed without drama after being committed since May.
Salter has thrown for 1,734 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions through nine games for Cedar Hill, Texas, according to the Dallas Morning News. And he has 594 rushing yards. Cedar Hill is ranked No. 21 nationally by MaxPreps.
“He’s a winner,” Pruitt said. “He’s a leader … a guy that we can’t wait to get here in the spring.”
Salter plans to enroll in January, adding intrigue to a position that has hampered Tennessee since Joshua Dobbs’ departure after the 2016 season.
The Vols signed three running backs, including four-star prospects Cody Brown and Tiyon Evans.
Evans is the No. 1-ranked junior college running back. He will enroll in January and is “a guy that we felt like is one of the premier running backs in the country,” Pruitt said. “I think he’s got a chance to be a dynamic player.”
Brown and Evans are bigger backs than what Tennessee has had the past several seasons, providing balance to a position set to return Eric Gray.
“Let’s go change the program,” Evans tweeted, hours before signing, in a thread that included Brown.
Tennessee also signed three-star running back Jaylen Wright, who doubled as a star track sprinter in high school.
The Vols loaded up at the skill positions, signing four-star wide receivers Julian Nixon and Walker Merrill.
Pruitt has yet to assemble an elite class, but his recruiting has been consistently solid. He’s aiming for a third straight top-15 class.
But a look at the recruiting rankings shows Tennessee’s challenge in becoming a bigger factor in the SEC. Alabama’s class ranks No. 1, while Georgia (No. 3) and LSU (No. 4), Florida (No. 8) and Texas A&M (No. 11) also are ahead of Tennessee.
Mississippi and Arkansas are positioned for top-20 classes under first-year coaches Lane Kiffin and Sam Pittman, respectively.
Tennessee football signees
ATH/TE Trinity Bell (6-7, 260), 3-star
RB Cody Brown (6-0, 217), 4-star
TE Miles Campbell (6-3, 238), 3-star
ATH/DB Christian Charles (6-1, 185), 3-star
DT KaTron Evans (6-4, 320), 4-star
RB Tiyon Evans (5-10, 215), 4-star
OT J'Marion Gooch (6-7, 358), 3-star
OT William Griffin-Parker (6-5, 330), 3-star
ATH Kaemen Marley (6-2, 206), 4-star
DL/OT Amari McNeill (6-4, 280), 3-star
WR Walker Merrill (6-1, 178), 4-star
WR Julian Nixon (6-3, 230), 4-star
QB Kaidon Salter (6-1, 185), 4-star
LB Aaron Willis (5-11, 207), 4-star
RB Jaylen Wright (5-11, 187), 3-star
DE Byron Young (6-4, 240), 3-star
Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Current subscribers can click here to join Blake's subscriber-only text group offering updates and analysis on Vols football.