The Tennessee Vols inked 14 commits for its 2018 recruiting class during December’s early signing period.
New head coach Jeremy Pruitt retained seven players who committed under former coach Butch Jones. Since Pruitt and his staff have started assembling their own class, Tennessee has shot up the recruiting rankings – from 56th in the nation since late November to No. 20 as of Feb. 6.
Here’s a quick primer on the first wave of the Vols’ 2018 recruiting class, and what each brings to the team.
Alontae Taylor, WR
Taylor de-committed from UT after Coach Jones was fired in November 2017. However, Pruitt’s staff made the four-star athlete a top priority immediately in December, and he was back on board. The Coffee County CHS alum enrolled early at UT.
He impressed scouts and fans alike on the national scene, earning offensive MVP honors at the East-West All-Star game and made an impressive catch at the Under Armor All-America game.
247Sports’ player profile on Taylor reads: “Taylor is a dynamic playmaker who is extremely versatile. He has good speed and quickness…is very athletic and shows great body control. He also has good vision and instincts. He needs to get stronger and add weight. However, Taylor has a lot of ability and bright future.”
Taylor dedicated his signing to his late grandmother, who served as his inspiration to achieve on the football field and in life.
Greg Emerson, DT
A holdover from Butch Jones’ recruiting class, Emerson was dead set on Tennessee since July 2017, when he committed. Emerson chose the Vols over programs like Clemson, Alabama, LSU, and Ohio State.
The six-foot-three, 280-pound defensive lineman has already enrolled at UT.
Brant Lawless, DT
The commitment of Lawless in May 2017 gave the Vols two of the top seven ranked defensive linemen in the state of Tennessee, per 247sports.
Dominick Wood-Anderson, TE
Spring Valley, CA
The four-star tight end raised some eyebrows on social media when he declared in a since-deleted tweet he would commit to the Vols if the fans would help him reach 20,000 Twitter followers.
Almost overnight, Vol Twitter galvanized and gave Wood-Anderson well more than he asked. Then, he visited Knoxville the weekend of December 15 only to find out he liked Tennessee even better in person.
Wood-Anderson is the nation’s No. 1 tight end prospect from a junior college. The Vols got a steal in the six-foot-five, 245-pound heir apparent to Ethan Wolf. A former Texas commit, Wood-Anderson chose Tennessee over Alabama and Texas A&M.
Jordan Allen, DE/LB
Allen initially turned down the Vols in December, telling staff member Brian Niedermeyer not to bother visiting him.
Jeremy Pruitt then called Allen and convinced him to use his final official visit to Tennessee. Allen was blown away by the sales pitch that he committed while he was still on Rocky Top.
He chose the Vols over TCU, Colorado and Arizona State.
Jerome Carvin, OT
The first of two Memphis-area commits in the Pruitt era, Carvin was convinced to commit to the Big Orange after Pruitt and offensive line coach Will Friend visited him in mid-December.
247Sports’ profile on Carvin reads: Carvin is a big, powerful offensive lineman. He gets off the ball quickly and has a very strong initial punch. Carvin is very athletic and aggressive. He gives great effort and plays until the whistle blows. He needs to continue to refine his technique, but Carvin has a lot of upside and a bright future.
Jahmir Johnson, OT
Lightning struck twice at Arizona Western College, as Pruitt’s staff plucked a second commit from the junior college during the early signing period. Johnson will vie for playing time on the Vols’ o-line alongside his teammate, Dominick Wood-Anderson.
A silent signee, Johnson committed quietly to the Vols during the signing period, but waited until he was with his family before he made his decision public after Christmas.
He is the first Pennsylvania native to play for the Vols since Andre Mathis in 2008.
Jeremy Banks, RB
The first running back commit under Coach Pruitt, Banks followed his teammate, Carvin, to Rocky Top. The nation’s 24th-ranked running back in the 247sports composite enrolled early.
JT Shrout, QB
The Vols were able to steal the pro-style quarterback from Cal in mid-December. An official visit to Rocky Top changed Shrout’s mind; he “fell in love” with Knoxville and the true, genuine southern hospitality he felt when he visited.
The addition of Shrout was critical for Jeremy Pruitt’s first recruiting class; Tennessee had lost both quarterback commits Adrian Martinez and Michael Penix after the university fired Butch Jones.
Jacob Warren, TE
Warren helped the Farragut Admirals win a state championship in 2016, and now aims for the same goal at the collegiate level. His father, James, played offensive line at Tennessee. The three-star prospect enrolled early at UT.
Tanner Antonutti, OT
Antonutti grew up a Vols fan, and a coaching change was not going to dissuade him from joining Rocky Top. He was the first commit to fax his letter on December 20.
Ollie Lane, OG
The Gibbs High School standout has wanted to play for the Vols ever since he was six years old. The 6’6, 285-pound Corryton native is among 247Sports’ top 30 prospects in the state of Tennessee.
Kingston Harris, DT
Harris is still waiting to join the Vols after signing in December. 247Sports pegs the 3-star IMG product as the No. 81 defensive tackle in the nation.
Paxton Brooks, K
West Columbia, SC
Brooks committed to Tennessee in August 2017, and gives the Vols some depth at the kicker position behind rising sophomore Brent Cimaglia.
The three-star prospect is ranked the no. 8 kicker in the nation. He enrolled early at UT.