Vols’ 2018 National Signing Day: Pruitt signs multiple defenders

Tennessee has finished up its 2018 National Signing Day recruiting cycle and the Vols landed themselves the No. 20 overall ranked recruiting class according to 247sports.com.

Head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his assistants are proud of where they went with this class, regardless of where they are ranked.

“We’re excited about the 20 young men we’ve added to this class,” Pruitt said. “These guys are going to lay the foundation for the next four to five years.”

The Vols finished the official signing day with six total signees, and five of the six came on defense.

3-Star Trevon Flowers, freshman, safety, 6-1, 185 lbs.

From: Tucker HS, Georgia.

A former baseball player who only played one year of high school football, Flowers chose to come to school and forego playing major league baseball.

“He played shortstop on his high school team and he’d possibly be getting drafted but wants to go to school,” Pruitt said. “He wants to play football and he’s going to be really good at it,”

Flowers is a versatile defensive player and will most likely be used as Pruitt’s prototypical “Minkah Fitzpatrick” type of player, otherwise known as the “star” position in Pruitt’s 3-4 style defense.

Pruitt sees Flowers playing a large role in the defense down the road.

“The good thing is he’s only done it for a year so he doesn’t have any bad habits. He could come play corner for us, he could play star, he could play safety. When we get him here we’ll see what he’s best suited for.”

He is expected to play everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, and Pruitt doesn’t see him having a problem with that.

“(Flowers is) a very unique individual, has a very good skill set as a defensive back and could probably play all six positions back there,”Pruitt said. “I think this guy’s going to be a very good player for us one day.”

3-Star Kurott Garland, freshman, defensive lineman, 6-3, 250 lbs. 

From: Heritage HS, Georgia.

Garland was a player the staff was looking at in between preparing for the playoffs and getting settled in at Tennessee.

“(Garland) was a young man that we found kind of over the break … looking through all the all-state teams just trying to find guys that possibly were under the radar,” Pruitt said. “He fits a need as far as a guy that can play defensive tackle for us … he’s going to be a really good football player.”

Garland, an undersized defensive tackle in Pruitt’s defense, would have to bulk up in order to receive significant playing time this upcoming season. Pruitt’s prototypical defensive tackle is roughly 285 pounds and takes up a lot of space in the middle of the defense.

4-Star Emmit Gooden, junior, defensive lineman, 6-4, 305 lbs.

From: Haywood HS/ Independence C.C. – JUCO.

Gooden is a transfer from junior college that has been trying to get to the university for a couple years now. After a stint at Independence Community College, Gooden is close to returning to his dream school.

“He’s going to finish up in May,” Pruitt said. “He has a little bit of work to do, but he’s a big man … really good motor, and another guys that fits for us inside with what we’re trying to do defensively.”

Gooden chose to return to Tennessee over Mississippi State, West Virginia and Arkansas. He also had offers from Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

3-Star John Mincey, freshman, defensive lineman, 6-4, 255 lbs. 

From: Clinch County HS, Georgia.

Mincey is a player that the staff has had their eyes on for a couple of years, and Pruitt is glad he decided to choose the Vols over South Carolina.

“Probably all of our guys on staff have had him in camp at some point in time,” Pruitt said. “He’s very athletic, plays basketball, and that’s another guy on the defensive front.”

Although he fits the frame of an ideal 3-4 defensive tackle, Pruitt believes he needs to put on some weight and fill out to compete for playing time this upcoming season – as Mincey sits at 255 pounds.

Mincey chose the Vols over South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn and Florida.

4-Star, JJ Peterson, freshman, linebacker, 6-2, 230 lbs. 

Colquitt County HS, Georgia.

Peterson is the crown and jewel of the class, plain and simple. Peterson was thought late to be considering flipping his commitment from Pruitt and the Vols to Alabama, but made himself a household name by sticking with his commitment on a patchy signing day for the big orange.

Peterson received high praise from his new head coach Jeremy Pruitt, and rightfully so. Peterson is the No. 48 overall player in the class, and one that Nick Saban pushed hard for, which left the Tide short of a coveted outside linebacker.

“We would have liked to have two inside linebackers but we got one,” Saban said in his press conference after the Tide wrapped up their 2018 recruiting cycle.

Pruitt is very optimistic about Peterson and his on-field ability.

“(JJ Peterson) has a very unique skill set at linebacker and can actually play all four positions, inside or outside,” Pruitt said. “He’s a guy that can play man-to-man on third down, he can rush the quarterback, but he’s a guy that can make plays in space also.”

Pruitt held on tight to his highest rated target, and wants the fan base to know it won’t be that way next spring.

“Give this staff a full year,” Pruitt said. “When you look at the rankings next year on National Signing Day, we’re gonna be right at the top.”

Edited by Seth Raborn