Pruitt focused on in-state targets to help turn Vols around
The state of Tennessee has become a popular place for college coaches over the past decade, with the state churning out more Power Five talent than ever. Last year, the Volunteer State had six players selected in the NFL Draft and just one of those players, former five-star Jalen Hurd, signed with the University of Tennessee out of high school.
In his first year with the Vols, head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff didn’t put much of an emphasis on recruiting in state, signing just one of the state’s top 10 players and only four in-state prospects overall.
That strategy has changed with the class of 2020 as the Vols already have eight in-state commitments, including four of the top 10. With this year’s class already at 50 percent in-state commits, how many more can the Vols reel in down the stretch? Here’s a look at the targets in play.
The Vols hosted Grimes for an official visit in October, and while Grimes enjoyed his time in Knoxville, it doesn’t appear that the will end up in Orange. Grimes has also recently officially visited Alabama and Oklahoma and he will be at Florida State this weekend, but the school that appears to be the leader in the clubhouse is South Carolina. The Gamecocks have pitched Grimes on the chance to potentially play offense at the next level, an intriguing proposition considering Grimes grew up playing running back.
Tennessee has a decided advantage here, especially considering that Baron’s father, Patrick Abernathy, works on the Vols' football staff in an off-field role. Abernathy has been with the Vols since before Baron was a prospect, but his presence in Knoxville surely doesn’t hurt Tennessee’s chances. Kentucky has been near the top of Baron’s list for a while, with Ohio State also being a factor. But right now it looks like the safe bet is that Baron will end up in Orange.
A big-bodied defensive linemen who blew up on the recruiting scene after his junior film made the rounds, Hardy has been a prime target for Tennessee for months. There have been rumors that Hardy is already silently committed to the Vols, but he’s continued to take visits in recent weekend.
He’s set to announce his decision next week, but not before an official visit to Auburn this weekend. Right now, he looks Tennessee bound, but his visit to Auburn is a wild card, since it is so close to his commitment date.
Thomas has done a great job of keeping schools and fans guessing as he continues to weigh his options. Tennessee, Ole Miss and Texas A&M all feel like they have a strong chance to land his commitment, and Auburn and Alabama are also in the mix. Thomas recently visited Tennessee and raved about his visit, but the Memphis native could opt to stay closer to home. Right now, Ole Miss looks like the favorite. The Rebels have his close friend and teammate, Jabari Small, already committed and that only helps their cause.
Another Memphis native, Henderson has popped on and off of the Vols' radar over the past two years. Right now, Henderson looks bound for Ole Miss, but the same could have been said about Memphis University School offensive lineman Drew Richmond five years ago. Will the Vols turn up the heat and try to land Henderson late? Or will he end up with the Rebels or perhaps Missouri, where he visits later this month? Henderson has done a good job of keeping his recruitment under wraps, so he might keep people guessing all the way until the end.