While Tennessee didn’t finish with the fireworks most had hoped for, coach Jeremy Pruitt still finished with a top-25 recruiting class.
Pruitt suffered a number of decommitments while still salvaging a few recruits from the Butch Jones era. From the Quay Walker Tennessee hat toss, to Jacob Copeland’s mom walking off camera following his commitment to Florida, National Signing Day 2018 was memorable for Tennessee.
UT finished with 22 total signees, including eight four-star players and 14 three-stars. The Vols filled some holes and added good depth on the offensive line, receiving corps, front-seven and secondary. Here are five players that can play significant roles as freshmen:
Trevon Flowers, S (3*)
Flowers’ one-year rise is somewhat remarkable. The three-star safety did not play high school football until his senior year.
His main sport was baseball, even signing a national letter of intent with Kentucky to play shortstop. However, UK agreed to lift his recruiting ban and Flowers used a breakout senior season to up his stock.
He impressed so much in one year that he even earned an offer from Clemson. Although he is not as flashy as Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Flowers is a very underrated prospect. He will provide versatility in the secondary and has the ball-hawking skills to provide an instant impact in 2018.
Alontae Taylor, WR (4*)
Tennessee needs playmakers, bad.
Taylor, one of Tennessee’s prized recruits that stayed on after Jones’ departure, has the athleticism and speed to be a true game-breaker on offense. He can spread the field playing on the outside, burn defenders from the slot or take a jet sweep to the house.
He played quarterback, running back and wide receiver in high school, so he has the athleticism to play all over the field.
With Marquez Callaway being the Vols best returning receiver, and Jauan Jennings’ future with the program still in question, Taylor has a golden opportunity to make an impact in year one.
JT Shrout, QB (3*)
Quentin Dormady’s departure coupled with Pruitt’s desire for a pro-style quarterback creates the perfect storm for Shrout to compete with Jarrett Guaranatano for the starting spot.
While Shrout is only a three-star prospect, he could have been rated much higher had it not been for a broken leg during his sophomore season that claimed his junior season as well. With only his senior season of playing time to showcase his talent for scouts, Shrout impressed many during several offseason camps.
Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton has a history of getting the most out of his quarterbacks, with Joe Webb (UAB), Brandon Doughty (WKU) and Sam Darnold (USC) as proof of what Helton can do with raw talent.
Guarantano is not guaranteed the starting spot and if Shrout plays to his potential over the summer, he has a real chance to be the starter for the Vols’ season opener.
J.J. Peterson, LB (4*)
Alabama made a late push for the No. 3 linebacker in the 2018 class, but Pruitt was able to keep Peterson committed to the Vols.
Peterson has top-flight speed for a linebacker, can play in coverage and has the versatility to play both outside and inside linebacker.
Peterson has the talent to start as a freshman, and with no real star at linebacker, it isn’t unreasonable to see him blossom into Tennessee’s most dangerous force on the front seven.
Dominick Wood-Anderson, TE (4*)
The top JUCO tight end in the 2018 class, Wood-Anderson can be a valuable weapon for whoever the UT signal caller is this year.
With no star receiver on the outside, Wood-Anderson can become a valuable target in the middle of the field. He has the ability to be the top pass-catcher for the Vols, regardless of position.
With John Kelly’s departure, Tennessee lacks a true offensive game-changer. The rest of the tight ends on the Vols roster have combined for six career receptions, so Wood-Anderson should be provided every opportunity to win the starting job.