ORLANDO — New Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff were able to sign 14 players during December’s early signing period, and there may not have been anyone as important as four-star wide receiver Alontae Taylor.
Taylor (6 feet 0, 184 pounds), from Manchester (Tenn.) Coffee County Central, was a longtime Vols commitment who re-opened his recruitment in early November. He is one of the top-25 wide receivers in the nation as well as a top-125 recruit overall.
“After Coach (Butch) Jones was fired, I had to figure out what type of coach that I wanted to play for and I wanted to play for a guy like (Nick) Saban,” Taylor told GN during preparations for the Under Armour All-American Game. “That’s why I looked at Georgia really hard, with Kirby Smart being at Alabama. But then when Coach Pruitt got hired, I went on my official visit and I got to hang out with him.
“The vibe and the atmosphere that Tennessee has is what I’m looking for. It’s home for me anyways, so I was like, ‘Why not just play for a new coach?’ “
How did Pruitt and the new staff get Taylor back into the fold? He said they brought up a current NFL star who is a former Alabama great.
“Just basically Julio Jones,” Taylor said. “Just be that guy that has an opportunity to go many places, but represent your state and stay home. That was really it. He just kept telling me to be a Julio Jones and stay in-state and represent it.”
The Volunteers suffered numerous decommitments in November and December, so Taylor’s yes-no-yes recruitment has made him a popular figure among Volunteers fans.
“It feels really good and it is big, but it doesn’t really matter right now until I make my impact on the program,” Taylor said. “It’s a blessing to have the fan support like that and I’m just ready to get there on (January 7) and get to work.”
Taylor will do some recruiting for Tennessee this week.
“I’m signed and I’m committed, and it’s time to go to work,” Taylor said. “Coach Pruitt says stay on the recruiting boards, so guys like (four-star wide receiver) Jacob Copeland are going to hear a lot from me this week.”
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreenGN)
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