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Ten key prospects that left Tennessee for college

Tee Higgins
Tee Higgins (AP Images)

With recent in state recruiting losses around the country it’s time to take a look at some key states and the big ones that got away. We start today with the state of Georgia.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

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1. Tee Higgins (2017)

Overview: Higgins initially committed to Tennessee before re-opening his recruitment after his junior season. In May he was still claiming the Vols as his leader, however after Clemson turned up its efforts he committed to the Tigers less than two months later. After totaling 118 receptions for 2,103 yards and 25 touchdown receptions over his last two seasons at Clemson, Higgins was drafted in the second round by Cincinnati earlier this year.

Farrell’s take: Higgins was a huge loss, especially since he had been committed and Trevor Lawrence was leaning the Vols way as well. Both went to Clemson and the rest is history. Butch Jones really blew this one.

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2. JaCoby Stevens (2017)

Overview: Stevens initially committed to LSU during his junior season, but then re-opened his recruitment two months later amidst rumors that Les Miles’ job security was being questioned. Several programs, including Tennessee, made a push for Stevens, but he re-committed to LSU a couple of weeks before the start of his senior season. He then stuck with the Tigers after Miles was fired less than two months later.

Stevens enjoyed his breakout season in 2019 with 92 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, five sacks and three interceptions.

Farrell’s take: Stevens is a versatile talent and another five-star who got out of the state. He would have brought a ton to the Vols defense, but LSU, another national title winner, was too tempting.

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3. Trey Knox (2019)

Overview: Knox trimmed his list of top programs down to Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio State, Florida and Penn State before committing to the Razorbacks during his senior season. At the end it came down to Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee. Knox made an immediate impact in Fayetteville as a true freshman, finishing with 28 receptions for 385 yards and three touchdowns.

Farrell’s take: The Vols were slow on Knox for whatever reason and he felt the love elsewhere. Losing a key in-state recruit to Clemson or LSU is one thing, but to Arkansas? This is one the Vols will regret.

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4. Jacob Phillips (2017)

Overview: Phillips initially committed to Oklahoma, but after taking a late visit to LSU he flipped his commitment to the Tigers. After enjoying his best collegiate season in 2019, with 113 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and one sack, Phillips was drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft by Cleveland.

Farrell’s take: Believe it or not the Vols didn’t really want or pursue Phillips and I still don’t get it. He had a solid career at LSU and helped the Tigers win a title and now he’s off to the NFL. We had him overrated a little bit, but he was clearly good enough for Tennessee to charge hard after and it didn’t.

5. Master Teague (2018)

Overview: Teague released a top three of Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia, but everything quickly changed after he earned an offer at an Ohio State camp. A couple of days later he ended his process with a commitment to the Buckeyes.

Teague began to hit his stride in 2019, with 789 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Despite the addition of transfer running back Trey Sermon during the offseason, Teague should still receive his fair share of carries throughout the season.

Farrell’s take: Teague was a good one and really exploded onto the scene when Ohio State offered. The Vols wanted him but they’ve done OK at running back but still losing an in-state talent like this stings.

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6. Cade Mays (2018)

Overview: Mays initially committed to Tennessee, but then re-opened his recruitment as Jones was fired soon after. He then committed to Georgia during the first day of the Early Signing Period. In Athens he was a Freshman All-American in 2018 and then played 14 games in 2019, seeing playing time at every position on the line. Mays transferred to Tennessee after his sophomore season, where he has been named to preseason All-SEC and All-American honors.

Farrell’s take: Yes, I know Mays is back at Tennessee now, but they missed him for two seasons where he was a standout. The offensive line recruiting has gone well for the Vols, but this was a big loss at the time as he was once committed.

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7. Jay Hardy (2020)

Overview: Hardy trimmed his list of top schools down to Tennessee and Auburn, after which he took an official visit to each before committing to the Tigers in early November.

Since his arrival on campus, Hardy has impressed coaches and teammates with his talent and work ethic. With defensive coordinator expected to use a large rotation of defensive linemen, Hardy is expected to receive an immediate opportunity to make an impact this season.

Farrell’s take: Hardy is going to be a good one and plays a position where elite athletes are hard to find. He can chase the passer and stuff the run and I feel he’s going to be a star at Auburn.

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8. Reggie Grimes (2020)

Overview: Grimes trimmed his list of top schools down to Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Florida State and South Carolina before committing to the Sooners during his senior season. Grimes’ performance in summer camp earned him playing time in the defensive end rotation this fall. In his first game against Missouri State he totaled two tackles and one sack.

Farrell’s take: Grimes is a polarizing one because he never really lived up to his potential in high school and was between positions. But he looks like he’s going to be a consistent early contributor at Oklahoma and the Vols and Vanderbilt will regret letting him out of state.

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9. Woodi Washington (2019)

Overview: Washington took visits to Ohio State, Florida State and Alabama, but then committed to Oklahoma before ever seeing Norman. Many other programs, including Tennessee and Vanderbilt, made a push, but he stayed firm with the Sooners.

While he maintained his redshirt in 2019, he did showcase his potential during his four games of action with 15 tackles, including 10 in the National Semifinal against LSU. Had three tackles and one pass breakup in the 2020 season opener against Missouri State.

Farrell’s take: Washington is another in-state prospect that the Vols didn’t charge hard after early and it cost them. He has the makings of an outstanding defensive back in the Big 12.

10. Bryn Tucker (2020)

Overview: Tucker had trimmed his list of top schools down to Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Auburn, LSU and Notre Dame, until he picked up an offer from Clemson during an off-season visit. The Tigers became an immediate threat and earned his commitment approximately two months later.

As a true freshman, Tucker has already earned his way into the offensive line rotation.

Farrell’s take: Big men don’t grow on trees so losing an in state offensive lineman is never good. Clemson is hard to beat on the recruiting trail and he is off to a promising start.