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Ranking the States: No. 7 Tennessee

Over the next two weeks, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney is ranking the 10 best states when it comes to star power in the 2022 and 2023 classes. Coming in at No. 7 is Tennessee.


RANKING THE STATES: No. 10 Pennsylvania | No. 9 Virginia | No. 8 Ohio

CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

RIVALS TRANSFER TRACKER: Stories/coverage | Message board

RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info/coverage on 2021 camp series




Tennessee is not traditionally a state this high when it comes to elite talent but the 2022 class is especially loaded with one five-star in Powell defensive tackle Walter Nolen and 15 four-stars. That state has incredible depth and talent all along the way. The 2023 class is also off to an excellent start as there are eight four-stars early on led by new Ohio State tight end commit Ty Lockwood.


When it comes to recruiting in the state of Tennessee, everything revolves around Nolen, who now has a new top three of Tennessee, Texas A&M and Georgia. The interesting thing about the five-star defensive tackle is that depending on who you talk to, different stories start emerging about which schools stand out most. Some believe it will end up being a battle between the Vols and Aggies. Some believe the Bulldogs are secretly much higher than others. Some have said just because he transferred to Powell, which is about 10 miles from Knoxville, that means Tennessee looks best. Others have said it means nothing at all. When it comes to Nolen, still so much needs to be figured out that giving a prediction on where he ultimately ends up seems premature.

Another prospect in the state who has captured serious attention is four-star receiver Barion Brown, who does not do many interviews and so there is still some uncertainty about his recruitment. Alabama seems to have an edge right now for the Nashville Pearl-Cohn standout but TCU is very seriously poking around as well. Ole Miss had made some in-roads, too, so the Rebels cannot be counted out but it looks like the Crimson Tide are in good shape.

The only other prospect in the state’s top 16 who remains uncommitted is massive Nashville (Tenn.) Hillsboro four-star offensive tackle Jacob Hood, who has had Miami, Auburn and Georgia as the three front-runners for a while.

Barion Brown
Barion Brown (Chad Simmons /

As for top 2023 prospects, three-star linebacker Ethan Crisp from Mount Juliet said Georgia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia Tech and Indiana were the best visits he took this summer. A busy fall is ahead with trips to Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, Florida, Virginia Tech and maybe Indiana for games.

Tennessee was the best visit this summer for 2023 three-star all-purpose back Marquez Taylor, who said they treated him like “family.” The McKenzie, Tenn., standout is planning a whole bunch of visits through the fall.

Nathan Robinson is 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds and so he’s going to draw special attention in recruiting. The Greenbrier, Tenn., 2023 prospect said his visit to Tennessee stood out the most this summer.

“I love the coaches,” Robinson said. “Coach (Alex) Golesh, coach (Josh) Heupel, coach (Rodney) Garner and coach (Mike) Ekeler specifically have been really great, and I’m happy I’m getting to build a relationship with them.”

Ole Miss and Kentucky are two other early standouts. This fall Robinson plans to visit those three programs along with Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

Nashville Father Ryan 2023 defensive end Drake Carlson liked his visits to Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Virginia Tech but the trip to Blacksburg especially stood out since he got an out-of-state feel. He hopes to visit Cincinnati, Virginia, Notre Dame and those three programs above this fall.

Tyler Jeffries, a 2023 four-star offensive guard from Alcoa, said his Florida State visit definitely stood out more than others this summer. This fall could be busy with another trip to Tallahassee for the Notre Dame opener along with stops at Virginia Tech and Tennessee at least.

Chattanooga Baylor School 2023 four-star offensive lineman Brycen Sanders had Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee as his three-best visits of the summer and this fall he plans to visit those three again along with Auburn. More visits are probable as well.

Lance Williams, a 2023 three-star offensive guard from Alcoa, said Clemson, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech stuck out to him this summer. He’s going to see the Hokies in their season opener, Florida has invited him to come for a game and he’s hoping to also see Clemson, Kentucky, West Virginia and Georgia Tech.



... Five-star Walter Nolen is a battleground recruit for coach Josh Heupel and his staff and while beating out Texas A&M or Georgia for him is going to be awfully difficult, it’s super important if Heupel is going to rebuild the Vols into a major contender that he doesn’t lose out on guys like this. Nolen is not a hometown guy since he just moved to Powell but you get my drift - Tennessee needs players like him all over the field.

... There have been mixed results when it comes to in-state recruiting in recent years - and for different reasons. But none of the top 14 prospects in the 2022 state rankings for Tennessee are committed to the Vols. None of the top nine picked the Vols in 2021. But the previous cycle, seven of the top 11 chose Tennessee so there is hope that players will stay home. No one knows what Nolen is going to do but the Vols have to close on guys like him.

... Barion Brown continues to move up in the Rivals250 and I’m not sure it’s high enough. The only thing that might really be holding him back further is that the Nashville Pearl-Cohn receiver has not been seen at many regional or national events so it’s difficult to get an accurate reading on where he should be ranked. But his film speaks volumes and now as the seventh-best receiver in the country I don’t know how much more he could move up unless we see him against some national competition.