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Pruitt: Alontae Taylor, Bryce Thompson to start camp playing cornerback

Two young players to watch closely.

SBNation Recruiting

Jeremy Pruitt hit the podium today to speak with the media before fall camp gets started tomorrow. He addressed several topics and updated a few injury situations. Pruitt also confirmed a couple of position changes.

Tennessee’s first year head coach said that Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor — two of Tennessee’s highest rated 2018 signees — will both start out playing on defense at cornerback.

Thompson was a late add to the class, signing with the Vols on May 30th. The 5-11, 180 pound athlete was the 5th ranked prospect out of South Carolina, playing on both sides of the ball at Dutch Fork High School.

“To me, one thing you need to be able to figure out is how to get your best players on the field,” Pruitt said. “When you’ve got 120 guys, you’ve got guys like Bryce and Alontae that have played both sides of the ball. They can play wide receiver, they can play tailback, they can play anywhere in the secondary. So you’re trying to figure out what the best combination is to produce the best team.”

With a clear and immediate need at cornerback, Pruitt’s decision was an obvious one for Thompson. “We felt like where we were at, it would be best to start (Thompson) off at corner and then go from there,” Pruitt said.

As for Taylor — the 122nd ranked player in the 2018 class — the decision to play him on defense was through experimentation. The Tennessee staff toyed with the idea of playing him on defense during the spring, thanks to Taylor’s early-enrollment status. He started for the second team defense during the spring game and apparently made enough of an impression to stick at the position during fall camp.

“We’re going to start (Taylor) at defensive back,” Pruitt told the media on Thursday. “He has the ability to play wide receiver, he can play either side of the ball. Again, trying to get the best guys on the field and how we can create the best team. We’re going to start him off a cornerback and I think it creates a lot of competition.”

Taylor joins the cornerback competition which now features Marquill Osborne, Baylen Buchanan, Shawn Shamburger and Bryce Thompson. A few other names could get looks at the position as well.

“(Taylor) is a big guy that can run and play the ball,” Pruitt said. “He’s instinctive. We’ve talked about it and played him on both sides during the spring and we just felt like the best place for him to start the fall would be at defensive back.”

So after a couple of misses at cornerback down the stretch of the 2018 recruiting season, Pruitt and the defensive staff have infused a couple of four-star athletes into the mix. That situation will be one to keep a close eye on with Will Grier and the West Virginia offense waiting in Charlotte.