After a couple of classes of simply building Tennessee back to the size it needed to be, Jeremy Pruitt was able to add a couple of blue-chip defenders to his interior during the early signing period.
Both Dominic Bailey and Omari Thomas were key parts of this 2020 group as a whole, with Bailey coming early and Thomas coming late. Tennessee isn’t set to lose anyone on the defensive interior this offseason, which means this group will easily be the biggest and deepest that it has been since Pruitt arrived.
A week ago, Pruitt broke down his signees at defensive tackle.
“The first scholarship that we got in (Wednesday) was Omari Thomas out of Briarcrest,” Pruitt said. “A guy that can play anywhere up and down the line of scrimmage, 6-4, 300 pounds, a guy that really could play defensive end all the way to nose guard. He’s a guy that we’ll probably start outside and work our way around, but he’s a guy that can play all three downs. Very good basketball player, also plays tennis, so that tells you a little bit what kind of athletic ability he has there.”
Thomas was one of the most important prospects to Tennessee’s class, giving them another top in-state talent. It was also yet another prospect out of the Memphis area, which has been a little more friendly to Tennessee in recent years.
Thomas already has the size to play the position, and as Pruitt mentioned, he can play any of them from the outside to the inside. This is probably your best bet of a freshman defensive tackle playing early on.
“Dominic Bailey is a guy that’s been committed to us for a long time from St. Frances Academy there in Baltimore, Maryland,” Pruitt said last week. “I went and watched these guys practice, and I thought it was the Pittsburgh Steelers out there practicing, their high school team was so big. The guys that he’s practiced against every single are really probably guys that are all going to college, so he’s going to kind of be used to wear and tear when he gets here. Again, a guy that’s used to winning and was sold on UT from the first day that he got here.”
Bailey committed to Tennessee way back in February, and you never really heard anything else out of his recruitment. While he doesn’t have the size of others around him at 6-2, 290, Bailey can play quicker and shoot gaps. He’s an ideal fit as a 3-4 defensive end at the next level.
According to 247Sports, Bailey ranks as the 212th prospect in the 2020 class.
“He’s a guy who’s a very unique athlete,” Pruitt said of Perry. “He’s 6-6, 305 pounds, got 35-inch arms. Played tight end some in high school, played left tackle, played defensive line and also played a little bit of wide receiver, so that’s kind of an unusual combination. You go watch him play basketball, he’s a very good basketball player, but a guy that we felt like was exactly what we were looking for when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.”
Perry was one of the final additions to Tennessee’s class during the early signing period. While his ranking isn’t all that impressive as a three-star prospect, his offer list included several power five schools like Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
This feels like another guy that this staff felt like fit the program from a size standpoint. We’ve seen guys like Kurott Garland, Darel Middleton and others come in and crack the rotation, bringing length and bulk to the Tennessee defensive line. You can probably expect Perry to be someone like that a little ways down the road.