4-star OLB Derick Hall explains why Tennessee made top 8, why he ‘must’ visit

Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest Tennessee recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers. Check out previous editions  here . In this edition, we discuss Tennessee competing for an athletic Mississippi outside linebacker.

Making the cut

Tennessee made Class of 2019 4-star prospect Derick Hall’s top 8 on Monday along with five other SEC schools. The Vols, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Florida State and Louisville made the cut because Hall has a slightly different priority than most top recruits.

“Each one, number one, because of education,” Hall told SEC Country. “They have a good program that I’m looking forward to going to do. I’ve only visited three of the schools, and the ones I have made me feel at home. For the ones I haven’t, just the things I’ve heard from people and the coaching staff and the research I’ve done looking at their scheme and roster put them in there.”

The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Hall has visited Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Hall fits what coach Jeremy Pruitt wants from the outside linebacker position. He’s athletic and has a 6-8 wingspan. Hall plays in a 3-4 defense for Gulfport (Miss.) High School and believes his biggest strength is rushing the passer.

Tennessee was set back a month ago in his recruitment. Tennessee and Robert Gillespie had a mutual parting of ways. The assistant coach was Hall’s lead recruiter.

Pruitt has picked up the efforts and talks with Hall two or three times a week. The coaching staff surely will begin pushing for a visit.

“I don’t have anything set in stone yet,” Hall said. “I’m still trying to get my way around with the new staff. Most of the time I’m just talking with Coach Pruitt. So I’m still getting in touch with the other staff members.

“It’s still a must to get up there.”

RELATED: Long, athletic 4-star OLB Derick Hall picks up ‘surreal’ offer from Vols

There isn’t a central theme pushed by Pruitt or the staff on Hall. It’s possible they realize Hall sees past a simple sales pitch. He approaches his recruitment with a straightforward mindset of where he can get a good education and fit in best.

“There really is no true message right now,” Hall said. “I’m just trying to figure out their scheme. Like Ole Miss, I know their scheme and I know I can fit in, possibly there. So I’m still learning Coach Pruitt’s scheme and defense. We are trying to build a relationship at the same time.”

In the mix, but not the top

Tennessee made the first cut, which is important. With the shakeup in the coaching staff it was imperative to not fall too far behind in Hall’s recruitment.

The Vols are trailing Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss right now. I think this is partly because he’s visited these schools. They also talk with him every day, which stands out to Hall.

Hall plans to trim his list in the next two months. Tennessee will have to make a daily push to make the next round.

A visit would go a long way in helping. Every recruit who is a priority has gotten one-on-one time with Pruitt when they’ve visited Knoxville. How the sit-down goes might determine where Tennessee stands with the rising senior.

Hall visited Auburn in early February and he feels a connection with coach Gus Malzahn.

“I’ve been there, it’s a great place, great people,” Hall said. “I definitely love Coach Malzahn. I’ve sat down and talked to coach for hours with my family. He’s just a great, high-character guy. He’s all about the kids. He’d definitely want me to get that degree.”

Malzahn talked to Hall about how he made Cam Newton come back to school after being drafted to finish his degree. The importance Malzahn places on getting a degree sticks with Hall. He is taking AP English and AP Government to finish out his senior year. He plans on majoring in mechanical or chemical engineering because he’s always dreamed of becoming an engineer.

Running back target commits elsewhere

Tennessee took its best shot at running back Sampson James. The Vols hosted him March 3 for junior day. It wasn’t enough as Sampson has committed to Ohio State.

This doesn’t come as a massive surprise. The 4-star back from Avon, Ind., visited Ohio State last weekend.

This might cause Tennessee to increase its efforts with in-state running back Eric Gray. Gray plays for Lausanne (Memphis) and is the best running back in the state. He’s a 4-star prospect and is the kind of player Tennessee needs to keep in the state.

Miss a previous edition? Find all your SEC Country Tennessee Vols recruiting news  here .

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