Recruiting

Jeremy Pruitt offers candid assessment of first recruiting class at Tennessee

Jeremy Pruitt, football guy, eschewer of asparagus, and straightforward coach, mostly wrapped up his two-month haul of signees Wednesday as the University of Tennessee’s new football coach.

There were no excuses; there was, however, a modest attempt to apply a layer of veneer.

Per customary obligations, Pruitt discussed that the Vols’ staff members, “are excited about the 20 young men we’ve added, that are going to help lay the foundation for the next four to five years of what we’re trying to get done.”

Hired a week into December and quickly after Phillip Fulmer was ushered in to replace the overmatched John Currie as athletic director, Pruitt briefly enumerated the qualities of most every signee — the December signatures and those from the traditional National Signing Day — as he discussed a Volunteers’ 2018 signing haul that landed middle of the pack in the Southeastern Conference and consensus top-25 nationally.

The Vols got better in some positions and deeper among others; they did not get enough done, however, of either area to believe in a seismic shift ahead in 2018 based purely on talent levels.

Yet, Pruitt’s staff also has been assembled with an eye on its ability to develop players.

“We wanted to make sure the guys we brought in fit the criteria of what we were looking for at each position,” Pruitt, noting that UT might not yet be done, said. “We (weren’t) in a hurry just to make sure we filled up spots because guys will come available as spring goes on.”

Importantly, Tennessee held on to JJ Peterson, a four-star, Army All-American linebacker whom Alabama coveted down the stretch, and the Vols edged out South Carolina, among others, for study, three-star defensive lineman John Mincey.

Both could play immediately, be it in sub packages, starting roles or on special teams.

RELATED: Grading Tennessee’s 2018 recruiting class.

Junior college, four-star defensive lineman Emmit Gooden also represented a quality late add, as the West Tennessee native had been pledged elsewhere coming out of high school and then had Arkansas and West Virginia this time around craving his signature.

Pruitt also revealed some insight into how he would like to construct his roster as he moves his Tennessee program into the future.

“We’re really excited how the day went. We signed six guys that will play on our defensive front and we needed some big men,” he said. “ …We needed to add size and depth and we did that.

“We added two linebackers, Jordan Allen and JJ Peterson, (so we) got a guy who can rush off the edge and a guy that plays probably inside.

“We’re talking about four offensive linemen added, three who are here right now. They’re going to get a great opportunity to contribute in spring; right now we only have 11 scholarship offensive linemen who are healthy, and that’s only two-deep. We need about 16 to 18 offensive linemen on scholarship.”

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