'Decade of the Vols': 2021 recruiting class contributing to Pruitt's promise
By: Rachel Ward
The All Vol Call in Show
Coach Jeremy Pruitt made a statement, or more of a promise, to his athletes in January as they huddled around the locker room after a narrow comeback win over Indiana in the Gator Bowl.
“What did I tell you?” Pruitt questioned. “This decade is going to be the decade of the Vols. You got me?”
If the start of this new decade in the recruiting world is any indication of what is to come on Rocky Top, Coach Pruitt’s statement could be one that turns into reality.
Just over a week ago, the Vols sat 17th nationally in 247Sports rankings with their 2021 recruiting class on April 26. Within 48 hours of their 17th rank announcement, Tennessee jumped from 17th to 5th in the nation, as well as 2nd in the SEC. Their climb up the ranks didn’t stop there and currently, the Vols sit just behind UNC with the 3rd best recruiting class all conferences and took reign as the best class in the SEC. Contributing to the No. 3 spot in the nation is the fact that the Vols have added two 5-stars, four 4-stars and 11 3-stars to their roster.
With what seems to be one commit after the other, Tennessee has turned the heads of teams across the nation as they continue the recruiting season with 17 commits already. As the Vols continue their upward trajectory in the recruiting world, fans across the country are wondering what is in the water on Rocky Top.
Cody Brown, a four-star running back out of Georgia, gave some insight into what attracted him to UT—and what just might be the attraction for high school recruits nationwide. The No. 9 running back in the nation gave positive praise to GoVols247 about his future home.
“I really like the energy there. It’s just everything—the coaches, the players, the fans,” Brown said. “Tennessee has got something really good going on...I can just tell by the way they talk about their players.”
The coaching staff that Coach Pruitt has formed in Knoxville have contributed greatly to the Vols success in the recruiting world, and Pruitt has included his current players in the recruiting process as well. Brown noted that many current players on the Vols’ roster were positively influential in his recruiting process, noting fellow Georgia boy and 5-star QB commit Harrison Bailey.
Brown is the first 4-star recruit under the Vols for Jay Graham, a former UT and NFL player and one of the newest additions to the Vols’ coaching staff.
“My priority went up when Coach Graham came. Communication went up when he became running backs coach,” Brown said to Sports Illustrated (Vr2). “I have the highest respect for him, and he knows what he is talking about. Literally, his first day at Tennessee working was a Junior Day, and I was there. We spent the entire day together, and we were breaking down film, practice film, drills, and automatically, I knew I could play for this guy. I could definitely play for him.”
Pruitt’s coaching staff haven’t slowed down, and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley, wide receivers coach Tee Martin, inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer, and running backs coach Jay Graham have hit the national rankings.
Currently, Ansley sits as the second best recruiter for the 2021 class behind Tony Alford of Ohio State and has the highest number of commits in the nation with nine class of 2021 commits. Martin sits at 9th nationally with 5 commits, Niedermeyer sits at 13th with 4 commits and Jay Graham sits at 21st nationally with 3 commits.
Looking on a conference level, Ansley, Martin and Niedermeyer currently hold the top three spots for the best recruiting coaches in the SEC for the class of 2021. Looking at the attraction for recruits with the man in charge in Pruitt, Trey Smith made a statement in The Slice Podcast, a podcast hosted by VFL Films and reporter Kasey Funderburg.
“A lot of things you don’t get in this industry is honesty and a person who believes in you...He cared about me as a person...When it comes down to game time, I’m going to ride by him,” Smith said.
As far as what the season looks on the game field, linebacker Henry To’o To’o gave his opinion on The Slice.
“We all know we can be something special this year,” To’o To’o said. “As long as we hone in and do what we have to do, we’re going to make that happen.”