Tennessee, Vanderbilt football coaches ramp up communication with in-state high school programs

Tom Kreager
Nashville Tennessean

Greenbrier football coach John Elmore's phone is ringing a little more than normal these days.

Coaches from Tennessee and Vanderbilt are on the other line.

With the NCAA dead period in place until June 1, college coaches have not been able to have face-to-face meetings with football recruits. So Elmore, entering his sixth year as Greenbrier's football coach in rural Robertson County, talks with college recruiters on his cell phone because he can't have them in his office at school.

"I've had more contact with them than in the past," Elmore said. "With having new staffs, wanting to get in the schools and meet everyone, but right now they can't until June 1."

High school coaches polled in Nashville at the recent Tennessee Football Coaches Association recruiting fair said they have seen an uptick in communication from both Tennessee and Vanderbilt coaches as they count down the last few days before in-person recruiting can resume.

"I think (Tennessee) is trying to get entrenched in the state and obviously do a better job of keeping some (recruits) home," said Pope John Paul II coach Justin Geisinger, whose starting quarterback Kenny Menchey, a Class of 2023 prospect, has an offer from Tennessee. "I think they'll do a great job. Obviously, we haven't seen those guys in person."

COACHING OPENINGS:Who is next: Top Nashville area high school football assistants ready to become head coaches

BEST FOR 2022 DRAFT:5 former Tennessee high school stars that could be picked in 2022 NFL Draft

FOOTBALL RECRUITING:How NCAA dead period is 'borderline killing' Tennessee football's 2022 recruiting class

Having recruits helps

While first-year coaches Josh Heupel at Tennessee and Clark Lea at Vanderbilt and their respective staffs are trying to meet state high school staffs to start to build relationships, there is also another reason to reach out.

They are asking about specific players that they are recruiting for the 2022 class and beyond.

Maryville coach Derek Hunt has spoken to coaches from both coaching staffs. But he has talked to Vandy coaches more despite being about 20 miles from Neyland Stadium.

The reason? He's got a player being recruited by the Commodores in DJ Burks, a 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back in Class of 2022.

"We've probably heard from Vandy than we have in the past," Hunt said. "Tennessee is about the same. It's a cyclical when you have people that they are recruiting. 

"Vanderbilt is interested in DJ Burks, so we hear from Vanderbilt about him. But they both seem like great staffs."

Likewise, Montgomery Bell Academy has heard from coaches from both staffs. They are recruiting 2023 quarterback Marcel Reed and 6-6, 255-pound offensive tackle Grayson Morgan, a 2022 recruit.

"We've talked to as many Tennessee coaches as I ever have," MBA coach Marty Euverard said. "We've got a couple of good players that they are interested in, too."

At Greenbrier, Elmore has spoken with Vols offensive coordinator Alex Golesh and Vanderbilt passing game coordinator Joey Lynch.

Elmore acknowledged that coaches' interest coincides with two prospects — three-star athlete Derek Taylor and teammate Nathan Robinson.

Taylor, a 6-4, 190-pound defensive back, is part of the 2022 recruiting class with offers from Marshall and Michigan State. Robinson is a 6-5, 245-pound defensive end and part of the 2023 recruiting class with an offer from Tennessee.  

Relationships already there

Whitehaven coach Rodney Saulsberry has had more communication, but that has been helped by having previous relationships with coaches. However, he expected to talk more with Tennessee's staff as two former Whitehaven defensive players — linebacker Bryson Eason and defensive back Tamarion McDonald — are on the roster. A third player, linebacker Martavius French, has entered the transfer portal.

And Saulsberry coached Tennessee running backs coach Jerry Mack at Whitehaven.

"Having players there helps," he said.

Saulsberry said he has relationships with Vanderbilt coaches as well, including defensive ends coach Jovan Haye, a holdover from former coach Derek Mason's staff, as well as running backs coach Norval McKenzie, who had recruited the Memphis area while at Louisville.

Reach Tom Kreager at 615-259-8089 or tkreager@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Kreager.