Tennessee making the right moves to push for top-10 recruiting class this cycle

On3 imageby:Hunter Shelton04/02/24


Tennessee entered the top 10 of the On3 Industry Team Recruiting Rankings at the end of March thanks to a commitment from Nashville Ensworth four-star defensive lineman Ethan Utley.

The top-200 recruit became the seventh member of the Volunteers’ 2025 recruiting class. With momentum entering April, Josh Heupel and his staff are looking to add a host of other top prospects to the mix over the coming months.

On3’s Chad Simmons and Steve Wiltfong joined Josh Newberg to dish on Tennessee’s top targets and where things stand for the rising SEC program as it tries to log one of the top recruiting classes in the nation come December.

“They’re in on the right names if they want to make a run at a top-10 recruiting class,” Wiltfong said. “Guys like David Sanders, Andrew Babalola. The Vols are trying to sign a special offensive line class this cycle. Trey McNutt, a safety from Ohio, Bo Jackson, a running back from Ohio. There are a lot of blue-chippers that are keeping an eye on Tennessee right now that are going to continue taking visits there this summer.”

“They’re in on Jaime Ffrench and many other playmakers, too. I think they’re in the right spot with the heavy-hitters, five-stars, four-stars, top guys to get involved with,” Simmons added.

Five-Star Plus+ OT David Sanders at the top of the board

Tennessee, like the other five finalists in his recruitment, have Five-Star Plus+ offensive tackle David Sanders at the top of the priority list. The touted trench monster is also considering Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and South Carolina.

Sanders still has his spring visit to Knoxville on deck, as well as his summer OV. There’s still ample time for the Vols to solidify their spot as a contender, but Simmons and Wiltfong already see Rocky Top as a potential destination for the No. 2 overall prospect.

“The simple answer is yes. They’re very much in the mix. Tennessee is right there,” Simmons said. “I think position of need probably starts with offensive line at Tennessee, from Sanders, to Juan Gaston, to Jaelyne Matthews, they’re in for some top offensive linemen. That and D-line, I think are one and two for them in this class.”

“Tennessee, they still have their two visits. An unofficial in April and then the official visit in June. He feels a great connection with that coaching staff, I think Tennessee absolutely is very much in it for David Sanders,” Wiltfong said.

Defensive recruiting will be crucial for Tennessee

The addition of Utley provided an impressive piece on the defensive end of the ball for the Volunteers’ recruiting class. He became the third defensive pledge for UT, flanking a pair of Peach State cornerbacks in Dylan Lewis and Tyler Redmond.

For Heupel and Co. to remain near the top of the recruiting rankings — this cycle and for cycles to come — Wiltfong points to recruiting the front seven as a major key moving forward.

“I like the way that Tennessee’s been recruiting on the defensive side of the football. For them to continue to add difference makers in that front seven I think is key for them, as they continue their trajectory as a program,” he said.

“When you look at the teams that compete for an SEC championship year in and year out, they’re typically really good at quarterback — and I love the way that Tennessee has recruited that position under center, but they need to continue, but they need to continue to land difference makers in the front seven that can play championship-level football. That’s how they will continue to take the next steps in the sport.”