Tennessee’s growing problem of Georgia recruiting in Volunteer State

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 and the threat of Georgia, which has turned into quite the problem.

The Georgia problem

Memphis, Tenn., defensive end Bill Norton announced his commitment to Georgia Sunday night following an unofficial visit to Knoxville. Georgia has been recruiting at a substantially higher level than Tennessee the past few seasons and this is just the latest example.

It’s a bad look for the coaching staff to miss on an in-state prospect who was such a priority. He’s one of the best prospects in the state and the best prospect in a city coach Jeremy Pruitt claimed Tennessee would “own.” Yes, it’s only March and there is time for the recruitment to turn back toward the Vols.

But a prospect committing to a division rival about 6 hours after being on campus does call for examination.

“I still had a great visit,” Norton told Jeff Sentell of DawgNation about the Tennessee visit. “Still had a great time meeting them and all those coaches. It was a good time to look around and meet with their academic people. But I didn’t feel they had the same fit for me as Georgia would.”

Kirby Smart is turning Georgia into the recruiting powerhouse Tennessee fans should have feared. In just two seasons, he has the Bulldogs rolling on the recruiting trail — and a surprising SEC championship and national title game appearance have only made them better.

Georgia signed 22 4- and 5-star prospects in the Class of 2018, while Tennessee picked up 20 total signees. The Class of 2019 is shaping up to be more of the same. The Bulldogs have eight commitments thus far — all are 4-or 5-star prospects.

Tennessee lost 41-0 to Georgia last season and the 2018 season looks rather foreboding with a trip to Athens, Ga., in store. The Bulldogs took top in-state prospect Cade Mays in 2017. It was the fault of Butch Jones, but something Pruitt’s Vols will pay for. This a trend Tennessee can ill-afford to let continue.

“Recruiting,” Pruitt said in his introductory news conference. “It’s the lifeblood of any organization. We’re going to start right here in this state. And we’re going to start from Knoxville and work our way out. This is going to be our state.”

A few months into his tenure, Pruitt has a mixed bag of results with the Norton decision being the harshest result. There is a mounting gap between the talent Georgia and Tennessee put on the field and right now it appears to only be growing wider.

It’s not been all gloom and doom, though. Pruitt was able to sway Memphis area 4-star tackle Jerome Carvin away from Mississippi State in the Class of 2018. The Vols also signed Carvin’s teammate Jeremy Banks, who might be the future of the rushing attack.

The day after signing day Tennessee also picked up a commitment from 4-star Class of 2019 guard Jackson Lampley from Nashville.

It’s very early in Pruitt’s tenure and in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Tennessee has to keep the best talent in the state, though, if it wants to begin closing the gap with Georgia. Especially the priority prospects such as Norton.

Taking early stock of in-state recruiting

So, Lampley is on board and seems locked into the Vols. He grew up going to games in Knoxville and something would have to go pretty wrong for him to go elsewhere at this point.

The Vols aren’t a slam dunk with any other top prospects in the state, though.

The staff is making up ground for top-rated Nashville prospect Lance Wilhoite after the failings of Jones. Arkansas is a scary dark horse in this one, too. The Razorbacks are  circling Memphis running back product Eric Gray, as well.

Wilhoite’s Franklin Road Academy teammate Tymon Mitchell is taking things pretty slow right now. Stanford is recruiting him the hardest.

Ohio State and LSU are recruiting 4-star Nashville product Kane Patterson harder than the Vols right now. The Buckeyes are recruiting Wilhoite and wide receiver Trey Knox pretty hard, also. They also signed possibly the best running back in the state in 2018 in Master Teague. LSU has a commitment from Memphis corner Maurice Hampton, the No. 2-ranked prospect from Tennessee per the 247Sports composite.

“I’m wondering, we saw the emphasis they put on players from California this past class and losing out late,” recruiting expert Woody Wommack said on Rocky Talk in February. “I’ll be curious to see. Lampley is one of those guys who basically signed a letter of intent with his birth certificate.

“There are a lot of good players. There is a reason Urban Meyer is down here on a regular basis. Clemson is creeping in. They are going to have competition. The question is will they go after it or focus on California and Atlanta?”

The focus has actually been more on Louisiana than Atlanta, but the point remains the same. The coaching staff has pursued out-of-state options a bit harder than in-state prospects to this point. It’s quite the gamble.

The Vols are putting in a lot of effort for Wilhoite and are picking things up more with Patterson, Mitchell, Gray, Woodi Washington and other in-state prospects. They are behind in a lot of battles, though.

Ohio State and Clemson are starting to devote more time and resources to recruiting the Volunteer State. To an extent, that’s OK. But the Vols cannot have Georgia, LSU and Alabama poaching some of the state’s top talent.

Pruitt is working uphill to launch another rebuild on Rocky Top. Losing top in-state talent is trying to do it with a hand tied behind your back.

Tennessee has to own the state in recruiting to quicken the rebuild.

Memphis basketball hires Penny Hardaway

This space doesn’t get much basketball talk, but the Penny Hardaway and Memphis reunion will impact the Vols recruiting.

Tennessee has not gone after many top prospects while Rick Barnes has been at the helm. He has targeted 5-star combo guard Anfernee Simons despite his unique opportunity to go straight to the 2018 NBA Draft.

Tennessee and Florida have an equal chance to land the coveted 2018 guard, according to the 247Sports Crystal Ball.

Hardaway will likely change this thought. Memphis radio host John Martin thinks Hardaway can swing a commitment to Memphis.

Tyler Harris, also mentioned in the tweet, has drawn interest from Tennessee. He actually fills the James Daniel backup point guard role better than Simons would next season.

Losing out on both — to a team Tennessee might face next season — would hurt.

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

The post Tennessee’s growing problem of Georgia recruiting in Volunteer State appeared first on SEC Country.

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