Tennessee’s second taste of National Signing Day for the class of 2018 was a bit of a disappointment. A staff with recruiting talent couldn’t get the Vols past a modest No. 20 finish (according to 247Sports composite team rankings), but had a short window to work with.
From Quay Walker tossing the Tennessee hat off stage to Jacob Copeland’s mother walking out of the room, signing day was not only lackluster, but also surprisingly emotional. However, Pruitt and staffs’ first class is still full of talent, and there are certainly players in the group who will make an impact in the SEC. Here’s who has the best playmaking ability.
Alontae Taylor, ATH/WR
As the highest-rated offensive recruit of Tennessee’s 2018 class, Taylor brings in obvious skills that made him so highly coveted.He first committed to Tennessee in June of 2016, but decommitted among the coaching extravaganza. Finally, he reaffirmed his commitment to the Vols before the early signing period, and is now on campus.
Taylor is easily the biggest playmaker of the class due to his rare versatility on offense. At Coffee County High School, he played on both sides of the ball at different positions. On offense, he played quarterback, running back and wideout (which is where he will primarily play in Knoxville). Also, he shows great vision and a burst that is unmatched at the high school level and proves that, with the ball in his hands, he is capable of taking it to the checkerboards if he gets the slightest separation.
On defense, he played safety and corner, where his footwork and his ball skills shined. Overall, the Under Armor All-American showcases that he has a great blend of skills that he should put on display when September rolls around.
Trevon Flowers, DB/Safety
Only bringing in a total of six offers, Flowers might get lost in the crowd among his other signees. However, he’s a player that could go from an under-the-radar prospect to a key cog for the Vols defense. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was very high on Flowers, and it’s safe to say Swinney is a decent judge of talent.
On film, his strengths lie in run defense, where he is always first to the ball. Flower is a sure tackler and is always going to be causing or near turnovers — he’s pretty physically fit for an incoming freshman at safety. He was listed as a 6-foot-1 high school senior weighing around 185 pounds. Being around the 190 mark is idea for a young defensive back. As he matures in Tennessee’s defense, watch for Flower’s increased role in the defensive back rotations and his impact on games.
Cedric Tillman, WR
Like Norwood, Tillman’s recruitment to Tennessee is an interesting one. The week before signing day, he had only received four offers: USC, Hawaii, UNLV and Weber State. Once Tennessee offered him, however, his draw to Rocky Top was a done deal quickly. He played for high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman and shined with four-star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson at the helm.
What’s impressive about Tillman is his ability to make plays on balls that aren’t perfectly thrown. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing a bit more than 200 pounds, his frame doesn’t lack a lot to be desired. Tillman’s length, catching prowess and improving route-running just adds more options to a wide receiver group needing some big-play potential.
Jeremy Banks, RB
The in-state product was the No. 16 running back in the country before signing with Tennessee in December. His senior year production highlights his playmaking ability — Banks ran for nearly 2,000 yards and 32 touchdowns. As a 6-foot-2 back, he can bruise defenders, but at the same time shows he can be quick on his feet.
He was a human highlight reel at Cordova with the ball in his hands. With quick lateral movement, good vision and overall elusiveness, he gives Tennessee another relief option at running back. Banks isn’t a blazer — at Nike football testing, he ran a modest 4.65 40-yard dash, but he benches nearly 300 pounds. His development is one to watch.
Joseph Norwood, Safety
Norwood’s commitment is a pretty interesting story. He had planned on signing with Middle Tennessee State, but a couple hours into signing day, he received a call from Pruitt, who extended the Chattanooga native an offer. With tears in his eyes, he accpeted, agreeing to blueshirt with the Vols.
Compared to Flowers, who is more of a pure safety, Norwood is a hybrid-type player. Out of all the recruits Tennessee has, Norwood may just be the most dynamic on defense. He continuously flies around the field and makes plays on the ball. His strong suit, however, is flattening ball carriers. On his defensive film, it seems as if he is in a competition with each defender on the field to see how hard he can hit somebody.
He has some offensive experience too, which undoubtedly helped his interception tally during his senior year. It’ll be a least a year before he sees the field because of his blueshirt status, but don’t forget about the potential Norwood is showing now.