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Tennessee Football: 2019 Early Signing Day Preview

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Who is left on the board?

Vanderbilt v Tennessee Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

Welcome to the December recruiting bonanza initiated by the Early Signing Day! You no longer have to wait until February to get sucked in to the black hole that is college football recruiting, and instead you can get most the drama out of the way by the time Santa Claus comes down the chimney!

What’s in store for Tennessee as the Early Signing Day 2019 approaches? We give a breakdown of some names you should keep track of below. We bring you over 1000+ words on what you might expect in the coming weeks.

When is it?

December 18th through December 20th. There are no major rule changes from last year’s Early Signing Day to this year’s, so read up our preview from last year to answer any questions you may have.

Who could join the class?

We’re glad you asked! Keep in mind that the names below all intend to commit during the Early Signing Period...but that’s no guarantee they sign. Still, most recruits are signing on the December date, so it’s a fair assumption in most cases.

3-star DE Morven Joseph

This recruitment got strange in a hurry. For months, it was a battle between Florida and Florida State for the talented pass rusher. He originally decommitted from Florida and joined Florida State’s class, only to get back on the market when Florida State fired Willie Taggart. The past month has sparked discussion about where exactly he fits on Florida’s board—supposedly the Gators have ramped up their recruitment of Texas A&M commit Donell Harris. But recent news suggests that Texas A&M is confident with where they stand for the 4-star defensive end. Which leaves the Gators possibly making another late push for Joseph.

Enter Tennessee. Jeremy Pruitt convinced Joseph to take an official visit on November 30th, and since then Tennessee maintained a spot in the recruitment. Joseph recently announced that Florida State was essentially out of the running for her services...leaving Tennessee and Florida as the two contenders.

Right now I’d lean towards Tennessee as the favorite. It’s not a confident pick however. This is one of those players who will keep it interesting all the way until he signs the dotted line.

4-star DE Tyler Baron

The good news is that Tennessee’s finish to the season may have just been enough to quell and fears that Baron may have about the program. There was a period in this recruitment where the momentum was decidedly not in the favor of the Volunteers. In fact, Oklahoma may have pulled ahead for a quick second.

That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Two of Baron’s last visits were to Knoxville, and I don’t believe Kentucky is a genuine player in his recruitment, despite them receiving the last visit. Baron commits on December 18th, and I expect him to be the defensive end signee that the Vols desperately need.

4-star CB Kendall Dennis

It’s pretty rare that a recruit gets to their announcement date with most industry insiders having no clue which school they’ll choose. Every once in a while you get a coin flip type of battle, but even then it is pretty well known which two schools are battling for which prospects. Dennis is unique in that there’s a group of four (maybe five) schools which could all conceivably receiving his commitment this month.

Right now, according to his Twitter, Dennis has five schools in mind: Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nebraska, Florida State, and Clemson. If you believe recent murmurs, Dennis was going to commit to Clemson, but their staff held off on accepting it. Alternatively, he could have backed off himself after talking it over. It’s all about how you spin it...

Either way, we know that Tennessee has a spot or two open in the secondary after Art Green’s decommitment. Could Dennis be the surprise commit to take one of those spots? The Vols at least have a puncher’s chance. Though if I had to go with my gut, I’d take Oklahoma.

3-star DT Octavious Oxendine

It seems weird that the staff might deny a defensive lineman commit. But if it happens, it’ll be with Oxendine. Months ago we said that Tennessee was going after Oxendine and Tre’vonn Rybka, who were both middle tier linemen with different strengths. We expected one to go to Kentucky and one to go to Tennessee. Rybka committed to the Wildcats and it looked like Oxendine was heading to Knoxville.

Instead, things cooled off for a bit and Oxendine began sliding down the rankings. Now Tennessee might not even be a hat on the table when he commits on the 18th. It’s hard to get a feel to where this staff is going with these final spots, especially if they are banking on Baron and Joseph joining the class. They may be of the opinion that those two will be enough, and someone like Oxendine is not needed to shore up the depth.

3-star LB Vai Kaho

Tennessee’s staff seems to fall in love with an under-the-radar prospect every year, and make a big push for them to join. Kaho fits the bill. He’s ranked outside the top-1000 and his only Power-Five offers are from Tennessee and Colorado. If you remember, Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is now the head coach of the Buffaloes, which tells me that Kaho has piqued the interest of both defensive minded coaches. Tennessee is pursuing him hard and got him to visit on December 13th. He will announced on the 18th.

Tennessee’s linebacker board is totally up in the air. We’d be lying if we said we had any clue how they’re ranking the final prospects left on the table. We know for certain they’re still interested in Vai Kaho however, and personally I don’t see Desmond Tisdol choosing Tennessee. No one has told us that, it’s simply what I think is transpiring.

4-star T Tate Ratledge

We need to admit: this is mostly conjecture. Ratledge is the highly ranked 4-star tackle out of Georgia whose recruitment became a dogfight between Georgia and Tennessee. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs emerged victorious in this rendition. Ratledge stayed committed and shut down his recruitment over the ensuing months.

But the recent departure of offensive line coach Sam Pittman possibly threw a wrench in his plans. Tennessee’s commit list has steadily tweeted him the past couple of weeks, and Ratledge himself tweeted that he would not be answering questions about his situation. Does that mean he’s for sure decommitting? Certainly not. But keep an eye on it just in case.

3-star ATH Jimmy Holiday

Very recent offer, and a guy whose recruitment has skyrocketed in the past month. He’s an electric athlete that’s committed to TCU as of now, but Tennessee and FSU have both offered and are pursuing him. To give you an idea, his page reports a 40-yard time of 4.38 seconds. Is he a quarterback? Is he a wide receiver? The most upside is probably the latter, but if he receives good coaching in the former...he could be otherworldly. It’s shaping up to be an interesting battle down the stretch.