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Should-be Volunteers shining across college football, not in Knoxville

Tee Higgins

That program tenet, no doubt, has been fostered for Pruitt at his previous stops of Alabama, Florida State and Georgia. Those have been three programs who have largely kept home their most coveted prospects.

Both Florida and Georgia have ranked among the nation’s leaders in most Football Bowls Subdivisions prospects produced for years. With dozens of highly ranked prospects annually, the Dawgs, Gators and Noles can’t sign them all and it’s understood they won’t. But in a state like Tennessee, the flagship university cannot afford to continually see so many of the much more scare high-impact players shine for other programs, and in some cases direct rivals.

Junior linebacker Tyrel Dodson, who, like Jalen Ramsey, Josh Malone, Rashaan Gaulden, James Stone, JoeJuan Williams, Amadi, Jackson and myriad others, trained with Nashville’s esteemed National Playmakers Academy, was meekly recruited by the Vols. Then-linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen did not follow through on a planned visit to see Dodson in the Midstate.

Now Dodson has appeared in 34 career games for the Aggies and led the team with 105 tackles, including 11 for losses, a year ago; a person with direct NFL connections last week said Dodson has worked himself squarely into the discussion for early entry into the 2019 Draft.

The 11th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats have assembled a roster that’s produced both contributors and future contributors from the Volunteer State during an unprecedented run of success for the Big Blue. They’re off to their best start since the Southeastern Conference expanded and host Georgia this week in a nationally televised game wth the Eastern Division title on the line.

Darian Kinnard, a towering freshman offensive lineman who lists Knoxville as his hometown and is a relative of Dolly Parton, per his bio, was an ESPN four-star prospect who picked the Wildcats in the spring of 2017 before Jones’ program had fully derailed.

One of five Tennessee natives for the Wildcats, who haven’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, is Quinton Bohanna, a West Tennessee native. He’s appeared in 19 of a possible 21 games along the UK defensive front through his first two seasons; Bohanna helped seal the Cats’ win against Vanderbilt with a tackle-for-loss, forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Oh, and the game of the weekend — maybe the season — in college football features No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 LSU. The Crimson Tide have linebacker Joshua McMillon, a former four-star prospect and Under Armour All-American from Memphis. LSU boasts two defensive starters from the Midstate with defensive back Jacoby Stevens and linebacker Jacob Phillips.

At Vanderbilt, safety JoeJuan Williams has been a contributor since his freshman year after the Vols bumbled his recruitment heading into Williams’ senior season. He’s now earned the notice of NFL scouts after playing two years of his high school ball at Father Ryan. Ke’Shawn Vaughn was not recruited by Tennessee despite a stellar career at Pearl-Cohn; he then signed with Illinois before transferring back home to Vanderbilt. Vaughn has been the Commodores’ top tailback this season and through eight games is on pace for a 1,000-yard campaign.

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