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

Player Profile: Jonathan Kongbo

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Jonathan Kongbo is a defensive end from Surrey, British Columbia (Canada) and is currently attending junior college at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona.


247Sports: No. 1 DE, No. 1 overall player in the JUCO class of 2016

Rivals: Not available

ESPN: No. 1 DE, No. 4 overall in the ESPN JC50 for the JUCO class of 2016


Of Kongbo’s 25 offers, eight (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, South Carolina) were from the SEC. Some of his most notable other offers came from Arizona State, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon,  and USC.

Film Review

Jonathan Kongbo’s high praise is well-deserved. His ability to shed blocks is unlike any other player in the junior college class. He tosses offensive linemen aside like over-sized plush dolls. When tackles engage him, Kongbo uses quick hands or quick steps to beat them and get into the backfield. He is a nightmare one-on-one matchup with an inexperienced or smaller offensive lineman. Another quality that makes Kongbo so highly touted is his motor. He is always chasing the play. There are multiple clips from his highlights where he runs from the backside of the play to help bring a ball carrier down. Once the ball is snapped, Kongbo goes full-throttle until the whistle is blown.

With the depth that Tennessee already has on the defensive line, Kongbo likely won’t see bulky playing time until late in the 2016 season. However, he has the ability to contribute from day one and be another force in the trenches for defensive line coach Steve Stripling.

Player Profile: Baylen Buchanan

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Baylen Buchanan is a three-star defensive back signee hailing from Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. He is the son of former All-Pro Safety from the Atlanta Falcons, Ray Buchanan. In his tenure, Butch Jones has emphasized guys who possess a great football legacy and Buchanan is yet another fixture in this plan.


247Sports: No. 71 CB, No. 791 overall player in the class of 2016

Rivals: No. 41 CB, national ranking N/A

ESPN: No. 64 CB, national ranking N/A


Buchanan was a highly sought after prospect, accumulating 23 offers. However, after the Vols’ dominating victory in the Outback Bowl, Buchanan decided to make the call in Knoxville. Some of his most notable offers came from Georgia, Louisville, Ohio State, and Oklahoma.


Film Review

Buchanan, like his father, is a very physical defensive back. He was the benefactor of playing in a loaded secondary during his senior year, sharing the field with fellow talented recruits Nigel Warrior and DeAngelo Gibbs. Although he is projected to play safety for the Volunteers, Buchanan played a large amount of his time at corner during his senior year, where he made several head-turning plays. In his film, Buchanan does a great job of supporting the run game — especially on the edges. He sheds his blocks with outstanding quickness and shows no fear in the tackling game. Due to the added depth  in Knoxville, Buchanan could benefit from a redshirt, where he can focus on getting both faster and stronger for the college level. Although his rankings are not through the roof, Butch Jones and Bob Shoop should be quite excited about the addition of this prospect. Look for Buchanan to become a fixture in special teams in his early years before he cracks the rotation within the secondary.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Player Profile: Marquez Callaway

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Marquez Callaway is from Warner Robins, Georgia and attends Warner Robins High School. He’s a consensus top 10 athlete in the class and has received over 15 offers from power five schools. The four-star receiver played some cornerback in high school, but head coach Butch Jones has plans to use him as a big-time addition to “Wide Receiver U.”


247Sports: No. 3 ATH, No. 103 overall player in the class of 2016

Rivals: No. 3 ATH, No. 95 overall player in the class of 2016

ESPN: No. 7 ATH, No. 149 overall player in the class of 2016


Callaway had 17 total offers, including SEC offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Some of his other impressive offers came from Clemson, Florida State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame. He committed to Tennessee on Jan. 21.

Film review

What stands out most in Callaway’s film is his ability to adjust to the ball. He seems locked into making the catch no matter what kind of traffic is around him. This makes him very valuable on Rocky Top because quarterback Joshua Dobbs isn’t known for his downfield accuracy. Callaway shows great skill in getting off jams at the line of scrimmage and quickly getting behind the secondary. He’s also very quick on his routes and has good feet. Callaway also had a decent amount of carries out of the backfield in high school, and he looks special in the open field. He has exceptional speed when he is put into that situation and has an arsenal of moves to free himself up from would-be tacklers. Callaway could be used similar to how Pig Howard was by getting the ball in the backfield.  When he touches the ball, expect for something special to happen.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Player Profile: Carlin Fils-aime

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Carlin Fils-aime is a running back that hails from Naples High School in South Florida. He possesses the ability to score whenever he touches the ball and is coveted by teams all across the country. But, with his pledge to Tennessee remaining firm, look for him to potentially make an impact as early as his freshman year.


247Sports: No. 28 RB and No. 512 overall player in the class of 2016

ESPN: No. 140 overall player in the ESPN300 for the class of 2016

Rivals: No. 15 RB and No. 49 ranked player in the state of Florida


With 15 offers in total, Fils-aime received offers from most top programs in the region, including Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, and Ohio State. However, with his commitment in the summer, he steered away from the recruiting process during the fall to focus on his senior season.

Film Review

Speed is the name of the game for Fils-aime. With a legitimate 4.42 forty-yard dash time, he possesses the ability to get to the edge and break it for six points on every play. Because his current high-school (Naples) runs a similar scheme to what Butch Jones and Mike Debord run at Tennessee, Fils-aime is used in several different roles. Expect him to be featured similar to the way Alvin Kamara and Pig Howard have been used in the Vols’ offense. Although he will need to bulk up a little bit in college, he still runs strong. In his film above, (good examples at 55 seconds and at 1:56) he does not shy away from contact and can truck defenders.

There is a reason that Carlin Fils-aime is the only back committed to Tennessee for the class of 2016, and it is because he can flat out play. Tennessee fans should be excited because he has a bright future. Because of the Vols’ current depth at the position, there will be little pressure for him to come in and produce right away. He will be afforded the opportunity to put some weight on in a college strength and conditioning program and mold into a productive role in this Tennessee offense.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Player Profile: Derrick Brown

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Derrick Brown (class of 2016) is a defensive tackle from Buford, Georgia. Brown, one of the top defensive players in the class, attends Lanier High School.  His explosive play makes him one of the most coveted players in the country, and his offer list validates that.


247Sports: No. 3 DT, No. 5 overall player in the class of 2016

Rivals: No. 3 DT, No. 23 overall player in the class of 2016

ESPN: No. 13 in the ESPN300 for the class of 2016


Brown has an impressive offer list of 26 schools. His SEC offers came from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Among his other 16 offers, the most notable were from Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Texas and Wisconsin.

Film Review

Derrick Brown plays like a mini Demarcus Ware. In the second play of his junior season highlights (above), Brown demolishes an attempted seal block and blows up the running back before he can get to the goal line. So many things stand out about him on film; his speed, his strength, his knack for the ball… all of it. Start with his speed: Brown can chase down just about anybody on the football field. His size makes his speed quite surprising, something that shows when quarterbacks or running backs think they have an easy angle to run around him. His speed and athleticism allow him to chase ball carriers down and make plays that linebackers would normally play.

Moving on to his strength: much like the before-mentioned play, Brown often uses his explosive first step and upper body strength to blow past offensive linemen. To counteract that, he also uses a nice swim move to finesse his way into the backfield. Finally, his knack for the ball: whether he is in contain or just has his eyes in the backfield, Brown always seems to find his way to the ball. His instincts are among the best of any defensive player in the class of 2016.  When quarterbacks scramble or try to make extra yards by getting upfield, Brown is there to limit the damage.  He will make Bob Shoop a very happy man this fall.

Edited by Cody McClure