Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said in his introductory press conference he would win the Volunteer State.
Pruitt has quickly become acquainted with some of the top Class of 2018 prospects in the state. He will likely make more of an impact in the next cycle just because he will have more time to build relationships.
For now, the priority is recruiting the Class of 2018.
SEC Country has studied the prospects from Tennessee and ranked the top 20 players in the Class of 2018.
Here’s the countdown:
20. 3-star OT Tanner Antonutti (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), Tennessee
Tanner Antonutti played tackle exclusively for Ensworth (Nashville, Tenn.) High School this season, except the final two games, after working on the line and at tight end in previous seasons. Tennessee projects him as an offensive tackle at the next level.
Ensworth finished with a 7-4 record with help from Antonutti on the line.
Antonutti attended Tennessee’s game against LSU and he appears locked in with the Vols.
Antonutti told SEC Country a coaching change wouldn’t affect his college choice. He is excited to get to Rocky Top.
19. 3-star TE Gavin Schoenwald (6-5, 225 pounds), Vanderbilt
Gavin Schoenwald decided to stay in the area and commit to Vanderbilt. He plays for Brentwood Academy in the suburbs of Nashville.
Schoenwald shows a willingness and seemingly even a desire to block and punish opposing players. This should translate well to the next level when the Commodores coaching staff demands this kind of play from him.
18. 3-star CB Jaylon King (6-1, 170 pounds), Georgia Tech
Jaylon King makes plays on the field, to put it simply. If he can add more strength, he could really shoot up the board.
King makes his mark for Ensworth by being faster than every other player on the field. This is his greatest attribute. He plays quarterback and cornerback, but his future will likely come on defense.
17. 3-star OLB Jack Sirmon (6-2, 225 pounds), Washington
Jack Sirmon recorded 61 tackles and 3 interceptions for Brentwood Academy last season.
Sirmon has a nose for the ball and always seems to find his way into the play regardless of his starting position on the field. Should he decide to stay committed to Washington, the Huskies will receive a linebacker capable of developing into something special.
16. 3-star RB Jeremy Banks (6-2, 215 pounds), uncommitted
Banks has been a slow riser this season but has picked up a lot of interest lately. He’s received recent offers from USC, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
Tennessee jumped into the mix after Pruitt was hired. He came to Knoxville over the weekend for an official visit. The staff is pushing for Banks.
The Cordova running back rushed for 1,941 yards and 32 touchdowns this season, according to maxpreps.com.
15. 3-star athlete DaShon Bussell (6-2, 182 pounds), Western Michigan
Bussell’s offer list doesn’t do justice to just how good he really can be as a player. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands.
Bussell plays for Knoxville Catholic High School, so he attracted his share of looks this season with former Tennessee commit Cade Mays on the field as well. Catholic won a state championship behind some solid play from Bussell.
Bussell plays wide receiver and cornerback and has said he leans toward playing corner at the next level.
14. 3-star DT Emmit Gooden (6-4, 310 pounds), uncommitted
Gooden de-committed from Arkansas at the beginning of the month. The uncertainty surrounding the Razorbacks coaching situation may have gotten to him.
Gooden recently took an official visit to Arizona State. The Sun Devils have been picking up steam.
He has good size coupled with a nice motor to disrupt the backfield.
13. 4-star OT Maxwell Iyama (6-6, 280 pounds), South Carolina
Maxwell Iyama needs to put on more size to reach his full potential. There is plenty there to get excited about if you’re a South Carolina fan, though.
On run plays, Iyama attacks defenders and never seems to let up until the play is over.
12. 4-star WR Camron Johnson (6-1, 182 pounds), Vanderbilt
Camron Johnson’s commitment to Vanderbilt in June seemed like a bit of a surprise at the time and is a huge get for coach Derek Mason. Johnson decided to stay in the Nashville area — he plays for Brentwood Academy — which is huge for Vanderbilt.
Johnson has good vision with the ball in his hands in the open field, allowing him to be a dangerous kickoff return man. He fights through contact and doesn’t go down with just an arm tackle. He could develop into a terrific possession wide receiver for the Commodores.
11. 3-star TE Jacob Warren (6-6, 211 pounds), Tennessee
Jacob Warren has shown his playmaking ability early and often during his high school season. He has 39 receptions for 659 yards and 8 touchdowns through 11 games, according to maxpreps.com.
I think his receiving abilities have impressed people this season. He has good speed for his size, too.
Warren has the size and ability to become a top SEC tight end down the line. He will need to add some pounds so he can block SEC defenders, though.
Warren should warrant plenty of opportunities to shine in Tennessee’s offense once he’s ready. He never wavered in his commitment to the Vols through the coaching search.
10. 4-star OT Jerome Carvin (6-4, 307 pounds), uncommitted
Jerome Carvin will make his decision this Wednesday to begin the early signing period.
Carvin dominates play on the west side of the state with sheer size. At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, Carvin bullies smaller defenders. It might be a big adjustment for him in college because he won’t be able to win his matchups on size alone.
I believe the Cordova, Tenn., product will end up on Rocky Top. Mississippi State is probably the top threat, though. Tennessee is recruiting him as a right tackle, but other schools have pegged him as a guard. It is unclear how the coaching change will affect his recruitment.
9. 4-star DT D’Andre Litaker (6-2, 302 pounds), Tennessee
Litaker tore his right ACL early in the season. The injury ended his high school career, resulting in him rehabbing to prepare for his college career with Tennessee.
This has been Litaker’s second torn ACL in as many seasons. There is some concern he won’t be able to bounce back fully from the injury, but I’m a believer in Litaker. He isn’t someone I’d bet against.
Litaker and the previous Tennessee coaching staff already talked about him redshirting his first season on campus. This is likely the best move for Litaker so he can take the process slowly and try to regain confidence in his legs.
It appears the new coaching staff will honor his scholarship. This is the right move by a coaching staff trying to build relationships in the middle of the state.
8. 4-star S Brendon Harris (6-foot, 205 pounds), Vanderbilt
Harris has been shaky in the rankings because college coaches seem to wonder where he might fit best at the next level. He plays running back and safety for Baylor (Chattanooga) High School.
Harris was a Tennessee commit but opened his recruitment after the Vols’ 41-0 loss to Georgia. It is believed Tennessee had slightly pulled away from Harris as much as he wanted to look elsewhere, too.
Vanderbilt jumped on the opportunity to snag Harris.
7. 4-star DT Brant Lawless (6-3, 285 pounds), Tennessee
Brant Lawless seems to be the quiet guy who just consistently gets the job done.
Lawless uses his quickness to get around offensive linemen with ease for Nashville Christian School. If he’s not double-teamed, Lawless will find his way into the backfield.
When the competition picks up in college and it becomes a little tougher to disengage offensive linemen, it will be interesting to see how Lawless uses his speed to make plays.
It’s easy to see why Tennessee pursued Lawless, because his athleticism makes him a handful for offensive linemen. He finished the season with 16.5 tackles for a loss, according to maxpreps.com.
Lawless informed SEC Country that the coaching change didn’t affect his commitment status with the Vols. The defensive hire of Pruitt was appealing to Lawless.
6. 4-star RB Master Teague III (5-11, 210 pounds), Ohio State
Master Teague spurned the in-state Vols for an Ohio State commitment over the summer.
Teague has good balance and explosion through the hole for a running back. If Teague gets to the second level, he has the breakaway speed needed to make big plays. It is obvious any time a highlight of his is shown why he has received so much attention from colleges.
The Blackman High School product did enough to turn the head of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, and Teague has 724 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in 5 listed games on maxpreps.com this season.
Ohio State won’t have any trouble bringing in Teague. No other school has much of a chance at challenging the Buckeyes.
5. 4-star OT Max Wray (6-6, 289 pounds), Ohio State
The offensive tackle has a huge offer list with Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson all notably on there.
Wray simply just bullies opposing players where he wants them to go. When he reaches the second level, he can knock back some secondary players a few yards.
If Wray can prove his pass-blocking skills at the next level, he could compete on Ohio State’s offensive line.
4. 4-star DE Jordan Davis (6-5, 238 pounds), Alabama
Any time a defensive lineman receives a committable offer from the Crimson Tide, it’s noteworthy.
Jordan Davis’ pass-rushing skills off the edge might even be better than Tennessee commit Greg Emerson’s at the moment. Alabama coach Nick Saban must be able to envision the big, athletic frame as a productive SEC pass rusher down the line.
Davis plays for Southwind High School in Memphis. He plays against some of the most athletic players in the South and his play stands out from the rest.
Pruitt getting the job gave the Vols some new life. Davis will almost certainly be joining the Crimson Tide.
3. 4-star DE Greg Emerson (6-5, 275 pounds), Tennessee
Emerson surprised everyone when he committed to the Vols in July. The decision wasn’t the surprise, as much as it was the timing, since Emerson originally planned to announce his commitment in December. Tennessee receives one of the best defensive linemen around and the best defensive player in the state.
Emerson’s size and brute force separate him from everyone else on the list. Some recruiting services have Emerson listed as a defensive tackle or project him to play there at the next level. Emerson scoffs at that notion and always says he will play defensive end in college.
Emerson sustained a dislocated left ankle and fractured left fibula at Nike’s The Opening and has been rehabbing his way back to health. He looks like he’ll be completely healthy when he arrives on campus in Knoxville.
Emerson has become the leader of the class for the Vols after the Mays de-commitment. He has been one of Tennessee’s most loyal commits through the process.
2. 4-star ATH Alontae Taylor (6-foot, 182 pounds), Tennessee
Alontae Taylor is one of only two players in the state to attend The Opening Finals along with Emerson.
Taylor has blazing speed and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He has played quarterback during his high school career for Coffee Country Central but made the switch to wide receiver this season.
Taylor re-committed to the Vols last Wednesday. Tennessee will allow him to play wide receiver, which was likely the deciding factor.
Taylor likes scoring touchdowns and has said, depending on the hire, that Tennessee isn’t out of the running. If the new staff gives Taylor a legitimate wide receiver offer, he very much could remain a Vol.
1. 5-star OT Cade Mays (6-5, 305 pounds), uncommitted
Mays makes the top of the list again, which is really no surprise. Mays dominates the high school game with brute force and physicality.
Mays announced his new top 3 of Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State. Tennessee seems to be out of the picture at this point with Mays planning to sign on Wednesday.