Five teams that can benefit from Tennessee turmoil
Jeremy Pruitt is out as Tennessee’s coach and some important assistants have also been let go, too. Here is a look at five programs who could benefit from the upheaval in Knoxville.
Auburn did not do a ton of recruiting work in the state of Tennessee during coach Gus Malzahn’s tenure with the Tigers, but new coach Bryan Harsin will be looking for new recruiting territories and a wide-open state like that should be perfect. The top-rated prospect in the 2019 class, four-star defensive tackle Jay Hardy, picked Auburn as he’s been the outlier in recent recruiting cycles, but the skill players in the 2022 class in Tennessee could be interested in playing for Harsin, since he works well with quarterbacks and his teams can put up points. With limited connections in the Southeast and established programs landing lots of those top players, recruiting Tennessee could make sense for Harsin and his staff.
Coach Kirby Smart and his staff have higher priority states than Tennessee when it comes to putting together some of the best recruiting classes in the country, but the Bulldogs do dip into that state for elite talent and that should only continue. Adonai Mitchell, Zion Logue, William Norton and Tymon Mitchell are some recent names that went to Georgia from the state of Tennessee. With coaching uncertainty right now in Knoxville and a strong 2022 class coming up, Smart and his staff could put an even bigger focus there.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin has something to sell with an offense that finished third in scoring in the SEC and it was enough to lure the state of Tennessee’s top player away from the Vols as four-star tight end Hudson Wolfe flipped to the Rebels in December. Tennessee’s offense averaged just 21.5 points per game and in Oxford, Kiffin’s offense is lighting up the scoreboard. Four-star cornerback Kyndrich Breedlove out of Nashville (Tenn.) Pearl-Cohn also picked the Rebels as a top-10 player in the state. Quarterback, running back and wide receiver is loaded in the 2022 class in Tennessee and Ole Miss will assuredly be back in the state for some top players.
Three-star defensive back Juwon Gatson had a final three of Tennessee, South Carolina and South Alabama until the Pruitt news broke and the Montgomery (Ala.) Carver standout told Southeast Analyst Chad Simmons the Vols are now off his list. Three-star receiver Jordan Mosley had been committed to Tennessee until the news broke Monday and now South Carolina or Mississippi State look best to land him. The Gamecocks have not had much success in the state of Tennessee in recent recruiting classes, but a few years ago it was a hot zone for that coaching staff and with an uncertain future in Knoxville, new South Carolina coach Shane Beamer could make the state a priority once again, especially in the 2022 class where none of the top players are committed.
It’s hard to believe, but Vanderbilt only has two in-state players in its 2021 recruiting class and had only one in 2020. That has to change under first-year coach Clark Lea and the turmoil at Tennessee could help Lea and his staff sell their vision in Nashville - and it could lend to some top players choosing to play at Vandy. Will Vanderbilt start beating Tennessee for elite players and fend off all the out-of-state programs that come in to take recruits away? Absolutely not. But to turn around the program, in-state recruiting has to ramp up and Tennessee’s struggles could be beneficial to Vanderbilt.