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Josh Heupel breaks down four-star defensive tackle signee Tyre West

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tennessee wasn’t really expected to go out with a bang on early signing day, but that’s exactly what they did. Four-star running back Justin Williams was followed by four-star defensive tackle Tyre West, and then four-star pass rusher Charles Pearce was the cherry on top.

West was the biggest pull, however, flipping from Georgia to Tennessee. The Volunteers also beat out Florida State, which was the perceived favorite entering Wednesday. The 6-3, 280 pound defensive lineman ranks 111th in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

There’s a reason defensive line coach Rodney Garner was one of the first official hires that Josh Heupel made at Tennessee — and here it is. His reputation is well known around the southeast, not just for his recruiting, but mostly for his ability to develop players and send them to the NFL. The two obviously go hand in hand.

“Coach Ekeler was actually the first one that went down there,” Heupel said, explaining how Tennessee landed West. “Coach Garner went down there later in the recruiting cycle, spent a ton of time with the people that were influential in his life, family, and people at the high school. I got a chance to go down there, his head coach actually is from Michigan originally. I recruited his quarterback to Oklahoma and had a previous relationship with him as well, so I think there was great trust in who we are, what we’re about and how we’re going to take care of the young man on and off the field, just help him grow into being a great person and great leader.”

Tennessee’s defense was a bit of a mystery entering the 2021 season. It was thin, paired with an offense that wanted to run a warp speed. Surprisingly enough, it worked. Tennessee wasn’t an elite group by any means, but they were aggressive and opportunistic, creating 13 turnovers. They also ranked inside of the top five in tackles for loss for much of the year before tailing off late.

Putting that product on the field and showing prospects who you are certainly helps, and not just on the offensive side of the ball, which gets all of the headlines.

West is on the shorter and lighter end as far as defensive tackles go, but he’s got some length in his arms paired with some quickness in his first step. Playing at one of Georgia’s highest levels, West was credited with 26 tackles for loss and 16 sacks in 29 games. He brings violence and a red-hot motor with him to every play.

“Tyre’s got a ton of upside as a player, man,” Heupel said last week. “His ability to play with great pad level, play on an edge, bend the corner. Physically, he’s just going to mature so much when he gets in our strength and conditioning and nutrition program. Got a ton of upside. I think that Tyre and everyone that was around him just trusted who we were and that we were real in the things that we were saying. Had a great official visit with him and some of his family. Ultimately, he believed in Tennessee. He believed in the Power of the T. He believed in the people that were here that were going to help him navigate the road over the next three, four, five years. He fell in love with the stadium too, man. That’s a special place. You take recruits in there, outside of the construction that’s currently going on, they fall in love with that place.”

Tennessee is set to lose several veterans at defensive tackle following this season, including Matthew Butler, Ja’Quain Blakely and Caleb Tremblay. LaTrell Bumphus and Aubrey Solomon could also exit. That’s going to usher in a new group, led by Elijah Simmons and Omari Thomas. It’s very possible that West could find the field early on, considering the potential turnover at the position. Tennessee only signed West and Jordan Phillips at defensive tackle, adding depth to the group of Dominic Bailey, Da’Jon Terry, Kurrott Garland and Amari McNeill. When you look at West with that in mind, getting his signature becomes an even bigger deal.

Tennessee’s class currently ranks 15th in the country, per 247Sports.