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Tennessee Recruiting: 2019 Mock Class Scenarios

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With under two months until Early Signing Day, the 2019 Tennessee recruiting class has key spots open.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The college football regular season is more than half over, with Tennessee football standing at 3-4 overall with a chance to make a bowl game. Most expected the Volunteers to finish anywhere from 4-8 to 7-5, and it looks like they’re on pace for exactly that.

What was not expected—at least from more casual observers—was Tennessee’s recruiting picking right back up to Top-15 level. The Volunteers finished 2018 with the 21st overall class, but that was in part helped by a very late twist in the cycle when 4-star athlete Bryce Thompson did not enroll at South Carolina. Instead, he joined Tennessee’s class, and helped boost their ranking for the year (in addition to turning into a starting corner).

Pruitt now has Tennessee ranked 14th in the nation according to 247Sports. The class seems near full at 20 commits, but Tennessee can take anywhere from 22 to 26 players. Pruitt mentioned 26, though that would require unexpected attrition. Those remaining 2 to 6 spots are reserved for top targets on Tennessee’s board, almost all of which are blue-chip players that Tennessee is considered a finalist for.

Early Signing Day is also less than two months away. More than a few of Tennessee’s commits will early enroll, and a couple of their targets plan on it as well. We will hear about those commitments sometime soon.

What are some of the realistic outcomes for Tennessee’s class at this point? We break down five scenarios, along with analysis and opinion on their chances of actually happening. Names come and go in recruiting, and it’s almost a certainty that the final class will be different from any outcome given here. Still, it serves as a nice exercise to see where Tennessee’s ceiling may be and where they stand to make improvements.

Italics indicate 4-star or higher rating.

Dream

247Score: 292.52 (4th in 2018)

QB: Brian Maurer

RB: Eric Gray

WR: Ramel Keyton, Khafre Brown, JaVonta Payton

OL: Wanya Morris, Darnell Wright, EJ Ndoma-Ogar, Jackson Lampley, Melvin McBride, Chris Akporoghene, Jackson Lowe

DL: Bill Norton, Charles Moore, LeDarrius Cox, Savion Williams, Jalil Clemons, Roman Harrison, Darel Middleton

LB: Owen Pappoe, Quavaris Crouch, Lakia Henry

DB: Jaylen McCollough, Anthony Harris, Tyus Fields, Jammie Robinson, Warren Burrell, Aaron Beasley

Analysis: This won’t happen. In a universe where Tennessee wins their next five games, Auburn fires Gus Malzahn, and North Carolina fires Larry Fedora? Maybe. But even then, Pruitt would have to bat 1.000 to have a shot at finishing with this class.

It’s also 28 players, which would probably require the staff to tell more than a few current players that they should head elsewhere. Note that I already dropped Sean Brown and Elijah Simmons to make it more reasonable.

Beat Expectations

247Score: 268.33 (11th in 2018)

QB: Brian Maurer

RB: Eric Gray

WR: Ramel Keyton, Khafre Brown, JaVonta Payton

OL: Wanya Morris, Darnell Wright, Jackson Lampley, Melvin McBride, Chris Akporoghene, Jackson Lowe, Sean Brown

DL: Bill Norton, Savion Williams, Jalil Clemons, Roman Harrison, Darel Middleton, Elijah Simmons

LB: Lakia Henry

DB: Jaylen McCollough, Anthony Harris, Tyus Fields, Jammie Robinson, Warren Burrell, Aaron Beasley

Analysis: Finishing with the class above is more reasonable and doesn’t require too much imagination to make it happen. For this one, Tennessee grabs two of their top remaining wide receiver targets, gains a commitment from Darnell Wright, flips Bill Norton from Georgia and Eric Gray from Michigan, pulls Jammie Robinson, and holds on to Aaron Beasley. Right now the Vols lead for Payton and Robinson, have a great chance with Wright, and are starting to look like they’ll keep Beasley from flipping.

LeDarrius Cox is the lone loss in this scenario. Most believe that he will not end up in Tennessee’s class regardless.

Most Likely

247Score: 263.87 (12th in 2018)

QB: Brian Maurer

RB: Eric Gray

WR: Ramel Keyton, JaVonta Payton

OL: Wanya Morris, Darnell Wright, Jackson Lampley, Chris Akporoghene, Jackson Lowe, Sean Brown

DL: Bill Norton, Savion Williams, Jalil Clemons, Roman Harrison, Darel Middleton, Elijah Simmons

LB: Lakia Henry

DB: Jaylen McCollough, Anthony Harris, Tyus Fields, Jammie Robinson, Warren Burrell

Analysis: A solid finish fulfills everything Tennessee is looking for with a mix of early contributors, high ceiling projects, and depth options. In the end I do think that Tennessee wins over both Gray and Wright, as well as convincing Norton to flip. Beasley is gone in this scenario, but I should note that he’s trending towards staying. Melvin McBride is another player that is not totally secure.

Of the 22 signees, 11 of them are blue-chip talents. That meets a crucial benchmark for national competitiveness. While it’s unfair to expect Pruitt to turn Tennessee into a recruiting monster in one year, getting close to that 50 percent mark is a solid goal to have over the coming seasons. It’s not as important in a bump class since you’re mainly focused on bringing in players who fit your system.

Disappointing

247Score: 244.62 (18th in 2019)

QB: Brian Maurer

RB: None

WR: Ramel Keyton, TJ Sheffield

OL: Wanya Morris, Jackson Lampley, Chris Akporoghene, Jackson Lowe, Sean Brown

DL: Kristian Williams, Savion Williams, Jalil Clemons, Roman Harrison, Darel Middleton, Elijah Simmons

LB: Lakia Henry

DB: Jaylen McCollough, Anthony Harris, Tyus Fields, Jammie Robinson, Warren Burrell

Analysis: This haul would still go a ways towards fixing issues on the current roster. But it also means that you were unable to hit on basically any of your remaining blue-chip targets. Instead, you had to replace them with a couple of prospects that you’re not very high on. Most disappointing is the defensive line, where all you brought in was depth, and not true difference makers (at least for next season).

Doomsday

247Score: 239.95 (19th in 2019)

QB: Brian Maurer

RB: None

WR: Ramel Keyton, Cam Wynn

OL: Wanya Morris, Jackson Lampley, Chris Akporoghene, Jackson Lowe, Sean Brown

DL: Kristian Williams, Savion Williams, Jalil Clemons, Roman Harrison, Darel Middleton, Elijah Simmons

LB: Lee Kpogba

DB: Jaylen McCollough, Anthony Harris, Tyus Fields, Jammie Robinson, Warren Burrell, Gyasi Mattison

Analysis: If Tennessee’s lone win for the rest of the season is Charlotte and they get blown out by everyone else, this could happen. It’s still unlikely even with those conditions. While it would be way too early to judge Pruitt, putting together a class like this would be a red flag. The only position group that you upgraded at was defensive back. Your offensive line and receiver group added a couple of nice players, but not enough to give total confidence in your regime. You also had to take a couple of players way down on the board who would not be takes in a regular class.

Takeaways

Tennessee has done enough to secure a Top-20 finish regardless of how the season finishes. That’s a testament to this staff’s ability to recognize talent early in the cycle and grab commitments that are solid to the university.

What’s evident is that the class could stand to improve at the top. There’s enough at each position right now that the floor is still relatively high. But in order to make it a statement class for the beginning of the Pruitt era, they will need to add those difference makers and solidly improve at each area of the field.

They have set themselves up to do just that. These next few months will be crucial for Tennessee if they want to make waves in the recruiting world. Then again, when you have already passed certain benchmarks, it’s all gravy from there on out.