There is no secret how important the 2019 recruiting class is to Jeremy Pruitt and the Tennessee Volunteers. In multiple interviews this season, Pruitt referenced needing to get his own guys into the program before they could compete at the level they wanted. While Pruitt and Company recruited far better than anticipated during their brief time with the Vols in the 2018 cycle, the combination of a 4-8 season and the handicaps resulting from an odyssey of a coaching search clearly hampered them. The 2019 class represents Jeremy Pruitt’s first class at Tennessee in which he and his staff have had a full year to assemble the players they want. Due to the talent of these players and the emphasis Pruitt has placed on wanting to get his own players into the program, expect to see the young men from this class on the field early and often. Here's an idea of what to expect on the field through Spring Ball and into the fall. We continue our Player Profile series by looking at Nashville product Jackson Lampley.
Anyone that watched the 2018 version of the Tennessee Volunteers knows that the play of the offensive line was the biggest issue by far that the team had to address. Statistically, Tennessee’s line last season was abysmal. There was no metric utilized to measure the efficacy of an offensive line group that was kind to Tennessee in 2018. They allowed Jarret Guarantano to take massive hit after massive hit, and on the occasions Guarantano was knocked from games, Keller Chryst was subjected to similar hits. Regardless of who the signal caller was for the Vols, he was often being hit before he could plant to throw on three step drops. The running game wasn’t really any better, with the Vols ranking near the top of the nation in the percentage of called runs that resulted in lost yardage. Worryingly, backs like Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan, and Jeremy Banks turned many runs into positive gains, or at least no gain, when being hit deep in the backfield. The struggles of this group meant that Jeremy Pruitt and his staff have prioritized offensive linemen in the 2019 recruiting class, and not just any linemen, they want their kind of guys. Pruitt and Offensive Line Coach Will Friend are looking for linemen that have size and strength, athleticism, versatility, and a nasty streak to use it. It is evident that Montgomery Bell Academy has produced a young man in Jackson Lampley that fits that bill.
Lampley is a very polished product coming out of MBA. He already possesses good technique as both a run and pass blocker. While playing for the Big Red, Lampley typically lined up at left tackle, though he will likely be used on the interior of the line when he arrives in Knoxville. That is not to say that Lampley isn’t capable of playing tackle at the SEC level. After seeing him live and watching his tape closely, Lampley would have to carry himself as a technician if he were playing at tackle due to his slightly shorter arms and good, not great, lateral movement. That said, Lampley is clearly a student of the game that has already developed good technique. There is no reason to think he would fail to refine it further at the SEC level. Lampley could arrive at Tennessee and play tackle for the Vols, and had Tennessee not signed Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright, he would be getting a look on the edge at least. However, the Vols did sign the top two offensive tackles in the nation in the 2019 class, which allows Lampley to slide into a more natural spot on the interior of the line.
Graded out as a four-star offensive guard, Lampley will also get a look at center for the Vols, something he mentioned in an interview from the fall. This means that the Nashville native has the ability to realistically play at all five spots on the line at an SEC level, a skill that Offensive Line Coach Will Friend put at a premium in his first year at Tennessee. While that versatility means that Lampley can help the Vols at multiple positions of need from his first day on campus, look for him to find a home on the interior of Tennessee’s line. Lampley has the intelligence to come in and quickly grasp Jim Chaney’s offense, and he is a young man that will put in the film work to give Vol coaches and fans alike confidence in the line calls that he makes. That ability to quickly digest information, make reads, and make the correct calls for the line is one of the intangibles that could push Lampley from guard to center for the Vols. As a guard, however, Lampley, has one of the key attributes coaches look for in interior lineman. A well-spoken, well-mannered, and intelligent young man, Jackson Lampley can flip a switch on the football field and play with a nasty streak two feet wide. When MBA needed to salt a game away on a long, run heavy drive to kill the clock, they followed Lampley. On second thought, the more appropriate way to put it is that they ran through the path of destruction Lampley left behind him.
At six foot four, three hundred five pounds, Lampley is tall for a guard and big period for a center. He moves exceptionally well in space for an interior lineman, whether in pass protection, pulling, leading on a screen, or moving on to handle a second defender after pancaking his initial assignment. That ability pairs well with the nasty streak mentioned above, because on his tape, on every play, Lampley is finding someone to hit. The blocks her delivers aren’t dirty, but they are emphatic, intended to make a statement. Lampley excels at engaging and then driving defenders in the direction he wants, often leaving them steamrolled beneath him. He is also exceptional at getting his first man to the ground quickly, moving upfield, and then driving a defender from the second level. These talents are only magnified when the game is on the line. Lampley is one of those kids that knows how to reach down for another level when it is time to put a game on ice for the win. He is a closer, playing his best ball when his team is counting on him to take over and when his opponents know the play is coming behind him. For a team that has faced the struggles Tennessee has over the past few seasons, Lampley brings more than his talent to this team, he arrives already knowing how to win.
Jackson Lampley has been a bit overlooked in the Tennessee class, perhaps because he is a legacy player, perhaps because he is an interior lineman, or perhaps because he committed to the Vols so early and never wavered. Still, Lampley is one of the best players that Jeremy Pruitt netted in his 2019 class. He arrives in Knoxville with all the measurables a coach could hope for with his size, strength, technique, and athleticism. He has the intangibles as well, the work ethic, the intelligence, and knowing what it takes to be a winner. Lampley said in our interview that it had been his dream to play for Tennessee, and he was so excited to have the chance. Add to all of that, he has the attitude and ability to help Tennessee at multiple spots in the biggest position group of need on the roster, and Lampley seems a lock to at least see a lot of snaps in Tennessee’s line rotation this fall. Where Friend and Pruitt decide to settle Lampley will have a serious impact on how Tennessee’s line ends up looking this fall. The starting center job will likely come down to Lampley or Brandon Kennedy, with the second choice at center likely competing with Jerome Carvin for one of the starting guard spots. Lampley helped to set the tone of the 2019 recruiting class for Jeremy Pruitt, expect to see him help set the tone for this entire team in the 2019 season.