After a slight lull in the action, Tennessee’s 2023 recruiting class once again made a splash in the recruiting world. This time, it was 3-star cornerback Rickey Gibson announcing his commitment to the Volunteers on Sunday afternoon.
So why is a 3-star a “splash”? Because despite Gibson’s ranking (461st overall, 43rd cornerback), he has received veritable SEC interest. Tennessee was fighting both the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Georgia Bulldogs for Gibson’s commitment, and it only swung their way recently. It’s a huge win over fellow SEC teams for a player at a position that Tennessee sorely needs talent at.
Gibson hails from Hewitt-Trussville High School in Trussville, Alabama. Hewitt-Trussville is typically good for a minimum of three to four Division I players each year, and makes frequent appearances in the top-150 player rankings. So he’s not coming out of nowhere. According to 247Sports, Gibson is 6-foot and 171 pounds.
The SEC interest is easily explained once you see Gibson‘s tape. The tools to be a No. 1 cornerback are all there. He’s got great speed and very quick feet, along with some playmaking abilities. There’s not many receivers out there who will outrun Gibson, and he has more than just straight line speed. He moves laterally very well, and has a lot of potential to realize in run support too. His tape shows he’s not afraid to make contact either.
If there’s one thing that’s missing from Gibson’s film right now, it’s probably the ability to jam opposing players at the snap and force a receiver to fight his way off the line of scrimmage. I don’t think it’s a physicality issue— there’s plenty of clips where Gibson isn’t afraid to get down and dirty. I think it’s more of a technique/tendency issue. At this level, Gibson can afford to give receivers a bit of space, since he knows he can always beat them to the spot.
I don’t mean to say this as if they are competing against each other for a spot in the class. But when you compare Gibson’s tape to the other cornerback commit in the class, 3-star Cristian Conyer, you see what it means to have a “high ceiling” vs. a “high floor”. I mentioned that Conyer has all the makings of a boundary corner. Gibson has the makings of a field corner. He’s the guy that you can leave on an island against a team‘s best receiver and know that you will be fine.
Of course, this is assuming that his progression stays on track. There’s still a long time before we can expect Gibson to get starting reps in a Tennessee jersey. He is not the player I would bet on to immediately come in and steal a job as a freshman. But he is the type of recruit that can give you an assurance that your secondary has the necessary amount of talent. Which is something it is truthfully missing right now.
Gibson is the 20th commit of the recruiting class. He is just the second cornerback of the class, and Tennessee probably wants at least one more to round out the defensive backfield. Gibson and Conyer are a good baseline—and Tennessee can really knock it out of the park if they get one of their top targets.