It hasn’t been the brightest of days for Tennessee football. It began with the news that projected defensive line starter Emmit Gooden suffered a torn ACL in practice. That is one position where Tennessee needs all hands on deck, and losing the most proven option is deflating news.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. Earlier today, it was confirmed by GoVols247 that 2019 4-star safety commit Anthony Harris would enroll in JUCO. Grades were a well-known concern for Harris, who did not actually sign with the Vols in February. It didn’t seem to be a J.J. Peterson situation either. The staff took an understandable risk on the off chance Harris would qualify.
So how does this affect Tennessee football both in 2019 and beyond?
The good news is that Tennessee already has two safeties from the 2019 class on campus. 4-star Jaylen McCollough early enrolled and made a splash in the spring. While he probably won’t start, it figures that he will contribute a fair amount. The other is 3-star Aaron Beasley, who has a generous ceiling on either side of the ball. Both will likely start the season behind Nigel Warrior and Trevon Flowers. 4-star cornerback enrollee Tyus Fields also deserves a mention here, since he has the versatility and potential to succeed at the safety position if needed. He’s the more flexible option.
All that being said...this development still stings. Harris was ranked 233rd in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite, but that was largely because his grade concerns were accounted for (similar thing happened to fellow JUCO enrollee Diwun Black). In terms of raw talent? Harris was near the top of the class. If his academics were in order, Harris deserved to be ranked around where McCollough ended up. He could’ve also made a similar early impact. Harris had an impressive amount of athleticism and toughness despite being rail thin, and his fluid game translated to both sides of the ball. An offseason of college strength training and nutrition will do wonders for him.
According to that GoVols247 article, Harris still wants to attend Tennessee in the future. Such a statement is encouraging—but we caution fans to not put much stock in it. Recruitments can rapidly change, and JUCO recruiting in particular can be a funny game. Harris would not be able to enroll at Tennessee until late 2020 at the earliest.
The 2020 class itself will stay on track for two safety commits. They have top-100 player Keshawn Lawrence committed and are still going after Antonio Johnson, another 4-star who was committed to Tennessee for a couple months. Harris’ inability to qualify did not catch the coaches off guard.
One final note: Since Harris did not sign an LOI, Tennessee will not get docked on the scholarship counter. That could come in handy for the 2020 recruiting class.