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Take Two: Vols are on a recruiting roll, but can they keep it up?

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

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Jeremy Pruitt
AP Images

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.

MORE TAKE TWO: Is Devyn Ford the next Saquon Barkley? | Could USC be overtaken in Pac-12 recruiting? | Will Ohio State land in-state standout Zach Harrison?

THE STORYLINE 

Tennessee did not win a single SEC game last season and the top eight players in the state remain uncommitted, but the Vols have put together an impressive recruiting class already with some blockbuster names still remaining as possibilities.

Coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff have done really well, especially in Georgia by landing four-star offensive lineman Wanya Morris and four-star receiver Ramel Keyton, among others, and there is a lot of hype around the commitment of four-star JUCO linebacker Lakia Henry in recent days.

The Vols currently have the No. 16 class nationally and they’re seventh in the SEC, and would be fifth if the rankings were looked at by average star ranking. That’s especially impressive since in-state standouts have been slow to come on board.

Last year was miserable, as Tennessee finished 4-8, winless in the conference and seemed close to giving up at the end of the year in blowout losses to Missouri, LSU and Vanderbilt.

Pruitt has quickly turned the tide, though, and Tennessee seems back on track - at least in recruiting. How has he done it, and can the Vols continue to close with a big-time recruiting class over the coming months?

  FIRST TAKE: AUSTIN PRICE, VOLQUEST.COM  

“Pruitt and his staff all have ties to recruiting in the South, if not the SEC. So I'm not shocked they have had a strong run of late. They did an excellent job of getting official visits in January from three five-star defensive backs and other top players like Quay Walker. They simply just didn't have enough time to convince those kids to take a chance on their vision. They have been solid in 2019 with a real impressive run over the last month. They are also in position or near the top for several other top players like Darnell Wright and Quavaris Crouch in this class .

“They are selling opportunity and a proven track record at other schools to kids. While the fans may get upset when Pruitt and company use players from other schools they've coached and recruited on edits for social media, it plays well to prospects and their families. When you talk to players they are recruiting, they all talk about the straightforward approach that Pruitt and his staff carry with their message. It resonates very well, even though it can be very direct. Ultimately, to land the truly elite guys of this class (Darnell Wright, Quavaris Crouch) they will have to show progress on the field this fall, which is why you have seen Tennessee be very active in the grad transfer market.”

  SECOND TAKE: MIKE FARRELL, RIVALS.COM

“I haven’t really been surprised. The biggest confusion is how they’re handling the in-state kids and whether they’re going to land a bunch of those guys or not. Their out-of-state recruiting has certainly been good.

“Getting Wanya Morris is important. He’s a big-time kid in Atlanta, which is an area where they need to refocus. The wide receiver they just got, Ramel Keyton, is a guy with good size and speed and he’s a very athletic kid, so he’s going to help that offense.

“Pruitt is a good recruiter. He’s a very direct recruiter. He doesn’t do the car salesman thing. He’s learned under some of the better recruiters out there - Mark Richt, Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban - and his approach is certainly working.”