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 Quavaris Crouch out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The linebacker position is an interesting one for the Tennessee Volunteers as they approach the 2019 season. The Vols have several veteran players within the group, but there are questions about how well those players fit within the 3-4 defense that Jeremy Pruitt and new defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley have implemented. Players like Daniel Bituli have looked like staples in the middle of the defense at times, and at other times they have struggled to cover assignments. Darrin Kirkland Junior was expected to be a lock to start at one of the inside linebacker positions, however, it appears that the chronic knee injuries that have plagued his career might have brought his time with the Vols to a premature end. As unfortunate as that is for Kirkland, it opens up an opportunity for the rest of the Tennessee linebacking corps. Players like Will Ignot made an impact when given opportunities last season and could challenge for a starting spot. Redshirt Freshman JJ Peterson was one of the jewels of Tennessee’s 2018 recruiting class, and though he has been a bit of an enigma since arriving on campus, he looks to figure into the battles for inside and outside linebacker. Outside, Senior Darrel Taylor has one of the starting positions on lockdown. Taylor was Tennessee’s best pass rusher by far last season, but the Vols never really found a player to pair opposite him in the base defense. After Jonathan Kongbo’s graduation, the outside linebacker spot opposite Taylor should be wide open for players like Deandre Johnson, who showed flashes in his appearances last season. The Vols also add multiple talented new comers in the 2019 recruiting class that should not only bolster the linebacking corps but could challenge to start inside and outside as true freshman. Perhaps none is more heralded or exciting than the Harding University High School product, Quavaris Crouch.
In 2017, Quavaris Crouch was the number one player in the country which is backed by being named North Carolina's Gatorade Player of the Year. Crouch lead Harding University High School to the championship during his junior year. Crouch played both running back and linebacker in high school. During his junior year, Crouch amassed over an astounding 3,000 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns as a running back. On the defensive side during his junior campaign, Crouch had 42 tackles with 14 sacks. Unfortunately, Crouch was sidelined during his entire senior season with an injury. While sitting out his senior season, Crouch dropped from a 5 star to a 4 star and lost his number one position as an athlete. Despite Crouch missing his last year, he was relentlessly pursued by all of the top programs in the country.
Crouch enrolled early with the Tennessee Volunteers after a grueling recruiting battle against the Clemson Tigers. When looking at Crouch it is easy to see why he was one of the top players in the country. Crouch is listed at 6’5” and 237 pounds. He already possesses an impressive frame for a player who is still supposed to be a senior in high school. Crouch has decided to wear number twenty-seven in his career at Tennessee, in honor of former All-American linebacker Al Wilson. Crouch and Wilson were identical in height and weight coming into college. Wilson was also a previous high school running back before coming to the Volunteers as a Linebacker like Crouch. Wilson was a staple in Phillip Fulmer’s defense and a team captain the year the Volunteers won a national championship in 1998. Jeremy Pruitt is hoping he has locked in his version of Al Wilson in Quavaris Crouch.
When evaluating Crouch, the most identifiable trait is his closing speed and the ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage while wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The Volunteers are in dire need of pass rushers this season. This could allow Crouch to see the field early during his freshman season. Tennessee’s linebacking corps should have plenty of competition this year and should be an exciting group to keep an eye on. That said, the apparent loss of Darrin Kirkland Junior is going to open up one of the projected starting linebacker positions. Jeremy Pruitt has stood by putting the best players on the field no matter the age. With Crouch being an early enrollee, he has a leg up on the other linebacker coming in. If Crouch can master the defense early, Volunteer fans will need to get accustomed to hearing, “Number twenty-seven, Quavaris Crouch with the tackle.” Crouch has the potential to be a staple in this defense for years to come. He has a unique skill set, exceptional physical tools, excellent size, and versatility within the defensive scheme. Crouch was one of the prized recruits for Jeremy Pruitt for a reason, and he is far too talented to not make an immediate impact on the Tennessee defense as a true freshman.