Tennessee trying to entice 4-star CB Woodi Washington with early playing time

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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 its pursuit of an in-state prospect at a position of need.

Offering what is important

Tennessee whiffed on every cornerback prospect Jeremy Pruitt staff’s went after in the 2018 recruiting cycle. Looking for a silver lining? The Vols can offer the chance at early playing time to corners in the Class of 2019.

Murfreesboro, Tenn., native Woodi Washington is hearing this message from the coaching staff.

“They said most likely I’ll play early, because the corners that they have haven’t really played or started many games,” Washington said on the SEC Country podcast. “They only signed one Class of 2018 guy. So, it’ll be a high chance of me playing early.”

The Tennessee coaching staff has figured out that this is the right button to push with Washington.

“It is important,” Washington said. “I’m trying to play early, as early as possible.”

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Washington rates as a 4-star prospect and ranks as the fourth-best prospect in the Volunteer State in his class, according to the 247Sports composite.

Tennessee is in desperate need of adding cornerbacks. Pursuing in-state options to fill the need is a good place to start.

Overall recruitment

Washington doesn’t have the size Pruitt is looking for at cornerback, though. This could be why Tennessee hasn’t gone all-in on Washington’s recruitment.

“I have a really good relationship with Coach [Terry] Fair,” Washington said. “He’s been hitting me up the most. I don’t really talk to Coach Pruitt that much unless I go down there to UT and visit. I talk with Coach [Charles] Kelly a little bit. Coach Fair, he hits me up just about every week just to check on me. He wants me to come to the spring game or practice.”

Talking once a week tells me the Vols aren’t all-in on Washington. For a comparison, Pruitt calls 4-star outside linebacker Derick Hall two or three times a week.

Washington visited earlier in March and plans to make it to a practice this spring. There clearly is interest in the Vols from Washington, who does say Tennessee is one of the schools recruiting him the hardest. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio State, Ole Miss, LSU, Kentucky are the other programs who are after Washington.

Washington recently visited Arkansas with close friends and fellow 4-star prospects Adonis Otey and Lance Wilhoite. Wilhoite was raving about the visit three weeks later. The trio has talked about playing together in college, and if they start to seriously consider that option then Arkansas seems like the likeliest destination.

Otey adds an interesting wrinkle to this recruitment. Washington said the two hang out every weekend and called Otey his brother. Otey and the new Vols coaching staff got off to a rocky start. I asked Wilhoite about it and he said he had heard the same thing, but didn’t offer any details.

Tennessee is working on its relationship with Otey right now. These three are very tight and could help the Vols.

Washington is in no hurry to make a final decision. He plans to commit after his official visits have been taken.

Where Tennessee basketball looks

The news broke Thursday that Tennessee’s top basketball target, Anfernee Simons, has declared for the NBA draft and will sign with an agent. This means he will forgo his amateur status. He can do this because he’s taking a prep year at IMG Academy after graduating in 2017.

Simons was not the kind of prospect coach Rick Barnes typically targets. He’s a 5-star recruit who likely would have changed the flow of the offense as a combo guard.

Tennessee has been linked to 4-star point guard James Akinjo, who was just released from his letter of intent from UConn after it fired Kevin Ollie.

I believe Tennessee should focus on Memphis-area point guard Tyler Harris. He is much more in line with the prospects Barnes has brought at Tennessee.

Harris fits the into the team the Vols have returning. He would fill the James Daniel role as the backup point guard with the thought of taking the starting role when Jordan Bone leaves in two seasons.

It is hard to get players from Memphis, but there is an opportunity here. Without getting into the weeds too much, Harris plays for Team Thad on the AAU circuit. This team was a rival of Team Penny, which was coached by recent Memphis hire Penny Hardaway. The relationship between Hardaway and Team Thad needs to be smoothed over, which might require more than a simple phone call.

Tennessee went in-home with Harris on Jan. 30. He’s someone I believe Tennessee will consider with Simons officially out of the fold. Harris fits the culture Barnes has built on Rocky Top.

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

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