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Grading Tennessee’s 2022 Signing Class After Early Signing Day

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We give our takes on the 2022 class and where Tennessee succeeded.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

With the Early Signing Period wrapping up on Friday, Tennessee football’s 2022 recruiting class stands at 20 commits. They entered the Early Signing Period hanging on to a top-20 class, but with the additions of multiple blue chip prospects, they have secured a spot in the top-15. Wednesday in particular was a resounding success. They beat out teams like Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, and more for some of their late additions to the class.

We don’t expect much more movement on the Tennessee side of things. Pretty much all their targets made their decisions on the first day. The focus will now shift to the portal, where Tennessee needs to grab a handful of immediate impact guys. Before that however, we want to give our grades for the Tennessee 2022 class as it stands. We’ve gone position by position and evaluated what Tennessee did on the trail.

What grade would you give this class?

All rankings are from 247Sports Composite.

Quarterback

4-star Tayven Jackson

Clint: A

Needed a quarterback in the class, and you got a 4-star early on. He never wavered and you got him across the finish line with no drama.

Terry: A+

It’s unfortunate that Ty Simpson got away, and especially that he got away to Alabama. But that’s not on this staff, it was just a matter of poor timing on a coaching change. This staff worked quickly to find their next guy and landed him pretty quickly after that.

Running Back

4-star Justin Williams
3-star Dylan Sampson

Clint: A-

This group looked a lot less promising early in the cycle. 3-star back Dylan Sampson has some nice tools, but you really needed an all-around back to help fill out the room. The Early Signing Day addition of 4-star Justin Williams did just that. Good number for the class and a needed diversity in skillsets.

Terry: B+

There isn’t much that’s flashy about this group, but Williams and Sampson will both provide immediate depth for next season. Justin Williams has the look of a multi-year starter down the road.

Wide Receiver

4-star Kaleb Webb
3-star Cameron Miller
3-star Marquarius White
3-star Chas Nimrod

Clint: B+

Wish you could’ve grabbed a more “college ready” guy, but you still added some serious speed and size with the class as it stands. Most impressive might be 4-star Kaleb Webb, but you also held off big schools for 3-star Marquarius White. 3-star Cam Miller and 3-star Chas Nimrod round out a nice class.

Terry: B

Finding Kaleb Webb late and wrestling him to Knoxville was a big win for this staff. Squirrel White has some big upside going down the field, while both Chas Nimrod and Cam Miller have good size and likely develop down the road. With the production put up in year one, I want to see if this staff can get in on some elite talent here in the next cycle.

Tight End

Tennessee elected to not sign a TE for the 2022 cycle—at least, not on Early Signing Day.

Offensive Line

4-star IOL Addison Nichols
3-star IOL Maurice Clipper Jr.
3-star OT Masai Reddick
3-star OT Brian Grant

Clint: B

4-star Addison Nichols is the clear headliner here. Tennessee grabbing him over Ohio State and Georgia means they grabbed an immediate contributor. Beyond Nichols however, the three other linemen committed are bigger projects. This offense does require a different type of lineman, so I’m not reading too much into star rankings. It’s still good depth if nothing else.

Terry: B

Adding Nichols is a really big deal — a future foundational piece. As Clint said, the other three additions are developmental pieces that at least add some depth. It’s tough to judge any of those three right now, but the numbers on the OL look good.

Defensive Line

4-star DT Tyre West
4-star Edge James Pearce
4-star Edge Joshua Josephs
3-star DL Jordan Phillips

Clint: A

Recruiting is absurd. Before Wednesday morning, this group was heading for a C+ grade. But with the surprise additions of 4-star tackle Tyre West and 4-star defensive end James Pearce, this cannot be anything other than a resounding success. Tennessee thankfully doesn’t need too many immediate contributions, but I would expect West at least to get into the rotation by year’s end. I will note that Pearce might have grade issues, but we will let that situation play out. If he does end up not enrolling, it would knock this down to a B+.

Terry: A+

Rodney Garner, ladies and gentlemen. Tennessee made up for missing on Walter Nolen by landing Tyre West and James Pearce on Wednesday, really throwing this group over the top. I liked Joshua Josephs on tape, and Jordan Phillips has a few fans in the recruiting industry. After such dramatic improvement in year one, I’m excited about Garner’s group moving forward.

Linebacker

3-star Elijah Herring
3-star Kalib Perry

Clint: C-

Not a great result for first year linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary. Just two commits, both of them likely needing some seasoning before they’re ready to hit the field. Tennessee needed to get some more talent and depth in this room. Both Herring and Perry have potential but you really needed more from this class. Tennessee will need to hit up the portal and turn focus to the 2023 class.

Terry: D

Tennessee will need some help at this position if Juwan Mitchell isn’t back. Herring and Perry likely won’t be ready for any sort of major contribution, so I could see the Vols opting to go back into the portal this offseason. Tennessee will need a stronger showing in the next cycle at this position.

Defensive Back

3-star JUCO CB Desmond Williams
3-star S Jourdan Thomas
3-star CB Christian Harrison

Clint: C

You got Desmond Williams, who should be contributing right off the bat. Beyond him, you got a couple interesting pieces with Jourdan Thomas and Christian Harrison, but I feel like you needed some more cornerback talent. We’ll see how much they get out of someone like Harrison, but it just feels like this was a bit of a dud.

Terry: B-

Without Williams, this grade might drop two full letters. I think you got a guy late there who can perhaps start and ease the blow of losing Alontae Taylor. Beyond that, there isn’t much here. As is, the Tennessee secondary isn’t much to write home about, though last year’s transfers Kamal Hadden and Brandon Turnage have plenty of time left to develop. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tennessee add another guy like that from the portal this offseason.

Overall Grade

Clint: B+

The Early Signing Day fireworks did wonders for this class grade. I think if you want to grade on a curve, you could probably give this class an A, considering what the staff was working against before the cycle began. The only reason I didn’t: I still feel like the defensive side of the ball wasn’t as strong as it really could have been. The line is great, but the linebackers and defensive backs aren’t. Hey, there’s still a couple months, so they could very well add on to their haul. The larger picture again revolves around just how strongly they closed on multiple blue chip prospects. Heupel and his staff will ultimately still be judged on the 2023 class—but he just put a lot of people on notice with the 2022 signees.

Terry: A

When Josh Heupel arrived, what did you expect? Through the COVID restrictions, the late start, the pending NCAA investigation — this staff had a ton to navigate. Heupel wasn’t exactly known as a strong recruiter either, so he proved some things to me here.

To come out with a top 15 class is just about best case scenario. It’s not a super flashy group, it’s not good enough to close the gap on Georgia or Alabama, but Tennessee kept its head above water here in a very challenging cycle. Now focus shifts to 2023, which is really where you can start drawing some conclusions about this staff’s ability on the trail.