The recruiting inside the state of Tennessee has trended upward over the past 10-15 years. This has been of large benefit to the Tennessee program.
The Nashville area continues to grow and become a hotbed for top-tier SEC talent. Memphis is full of athletes and the Knoxville area produced some top players in the Class 0f 2018.
Even former Tennessee and Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer said it just means more to win with homegrown talent.
Coach Butch Jones has put in a lot of time and effort into recruiting the Volunteer State this cycle. The fruits of his labor have paid off with the Vols reeling in many of the top in-state players.
SEC Country has studied the prospects from Tennessee and ranked the top 20 players in the Class of 2018.
20. 3-star OT Tanner Antonutti (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), Tennessee
Antonutti will play tackle exclusively for Ensworth (Nashville, Tenn.) High School this season after working on the line and at tight end in previous seasons. Tennessee projects him as an offensive tackle at the next level.
Antonutti has the potential to really rise playing only left tackle in his senior season and honing his skills. He possesses tremendous athleticism for a lineman and could really turn into an excellent pass blocker.
19. 3-star OT Cole Mabry (6-6, 270 pounds), Notre Dame
Mabry has stayed strong in his commitment to Notre Dame for a while now and doesn’t look like he’ll look anywhere else either.
Mabry is another in a long line of big offensive lineman from the Nashville area. He anchors the line of Brentwood High School.
18. 3-star TE Gavin Schoenwald (6-5, 225 pounds), Vanderbilt
Schoenwald decided to stay in the area and commit to Vanderbilt. He plays for Brentwood Academy in the suburbs of Nashville, Tenn.
Schoenwald shows a willingness and seemingly even a desire to block and punish opposing players. This should translate well to the next level when the Commodores coaching staff demands this kind of play from him.
17. 3-star CB Jaylon King (6-1, 170 pounds), Georgia Tech
King makes plays on the field, to put it simply. If he can add more strength, he could really shoot up the board.
King gets by for Ensworth by being pretty much faster than every other player on the field. This is his greatest attribute.
King plays quarterback and cornerback, but his future will likely lie on the defensive end of the field.
16. 3-star ATH DaShon Bussell (6-2, 182 pounds), uncommitted
Bussell doesn’t have the most impressive offer list as his two best offers so far are Tennessee and Iowa State.
The list doesn’t do justice to just how good Bussell really can be as a player. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands.
Bussell plays for Knoxville Catholic High School, so he will get plenty of looks this season with Tennessee commit Cade Mays on the field.
Bussell plays wide receiver and cornerback and has said he leans toward playing corner at the next level.
15. 3-star OLB Jack Sirmon (6-2, 225 pounds), Washington
Sirmon recorded 61 tackles and 3 interceptions for Brentwood Academy last season.
Sirmon has a nose for the ball and always seems to find his way into the play regardless of his starting position on the field. Should he decide to stay committed to Washington, the Huskies will get a linebacker capable of developing into something special.
14. 3-star DT Emmit Gooden (6-4, 310 pounds), Arkansas
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema likes linemen on both sides of the ball a certain way: big and hard to move around.
Gooden brings the Razorbacks exactly that with his size. He has the frame to get into a college weight room and really become a strong player at the next level.
13. 3-star TE Jacob Warren (6-6, 211 pounds), Tennessee
Warren has the size and ability to become a top SEC tight end down the line. He will need to add some more pounds so he can block SEC defenders, though.
Warren should get plenty of opportunities to shine in the Vols’ offense once he’s ready. Offensive coordinator Larry Scott was the lead recruiter for the Farragut (Knoxville, Tenn.) High School product.
12. 4-star OT Maxwell Iyama (6-6, 280 pounds), South Carolina
Iyama needs to put on more size to reach his full potential. There is plenty there to get excited about if you’re a South Carolina fan, though.
On run plays, Iyama attacks the defenders and never seems to let up until the play is finished.
11. 4-star WR Cameron Johnson (6-1, 182 pounds), Vanderbilt
Johnson’s commitment to Vanderbilt in June seemed like a bit of surprise at the time but is a huge get for coach Derek Mason. Johnson decided to stay in the Nashville area — he plays for Brentwood Academy — which is huge for Vanderbilt.
Johnson has good vision with the ball in his hands in the open field, allowing him to be a dangerous kickoff return man. He fights through contact and doesn’t go down with just an arm tackle.
Johnson could develop into a terrific possession wide receiver for the Commodores.
10. 4-star OT Jerome Carvin (6-4, 325 pounds), uncommitted
Carvin is the top uncommitted prospect in the state and will make his decision after he takes all five of his official visits.
I believe the Cordova, Tenn., product will end up on Rocky Top, but Mississippi State is a looming threat, one that is becoming bigger with each passing day.
Carvin will likely move to guard at the next level, where his bruising style of play can fit in better.
9. 4-star RB Master Teague III (5-11, 210 pounds), Ohio State
Teague spurned the in-state Vols for an Ohio State commitment over the summer.
Teague has good balance and explosion through the hole for a running back. If Teague gets to the second level, he has the breakaway speed needed to make big plays.
The Blackman High School product did enough to turn the head of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, and Teague could move up the list more with a solid senior season.
8. 4-star DT Brant Lawless (6-3, 285 pounds), Tennessee
Lawless uses his quickness to get around offensive linemen with ease for Nashville Christian School. If he’s not double-teamed, Lawless will find his way into the backfield.
When the competition picks up in college and it becomes a little tougher to disengage offensive linemen, it will be interesting to see how Lawless uses his speed to make plays.
Lawless’ commitment to the Vols was one of Tennessee defensive line coach Brady Hoke’s first victories on staff. It’s easy to see why Hoke pursued Lawless, because his athleticism makes him a handful for offensive linemen.
7. 4-star DT D’Andre Litaker (6-2, 302 pounds), Tennessee
Litaker’s motor never stops working and that’s how he dominates the competition. Just look who is carrying the ball against Riverside (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) High School and Litaker won’t be far away.
For the defensive tackle to chase down the ball, even when the plays goes to the other side of the field, is impressive.
Tennessee’s defensive line will get a seemingly never-tiring worker for years to come.
6. 4-star OT Max Wray (6-6, 289 pounds), Ohio State
The offensive tackle has a huge offer list with Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson all notably on there.
Wray simply just bullies opposing players into where he wants them to go. When he reaches the second level, he can knock back some secondary players a few yards.
If Wray can prove his pass-blocking skills at the next level, he could compete on Ohio State’s offensive line.
5. 4-star S Brendon Harris (6-foot, 205 pounds), Tennessee
Harris will be an integral part of the Tennessee secondary for years to come. He said he has the confidence coming in to contribute as a freshman.
Watching him play and it’s easy to see why Harris would think he could, and the Tennessee coaches have told him he has a chance.
Harris has a solid frame and plays the ball extremely well in the air. He plays running back on the other side of the ball and flashes his speed there.
Harris ran for 2 touchdowns in Baylor High School’s first game of the 2017 season against Notre Dame in Chattanooga, Tenn.
4. 4-star DE Jordan Davis (6-5, 238 pounds), Alabama
Any time a defensive lineman receives a committable offer from the Crimson Tide, it’s noteworthy.
Davis’ pass rushing skills off the edge might even be better than Greg Emerson’s at the moment. Alabama coach Nick Saban must be able to envision the big, athletic frame as a productive SEC pass rusher down the line.
Davis plays for Southwind High School in Memphis. He plays against some of the most athletic players in the South and his play stands out from the rest.
3. 4-star WR Alontae Taylor (6-foot, 182 pounds), Tennessee
Taylor is one of only two players in the state to attend the Opening Finals along with Greg Emerson.
Taylor has blazing speed and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He has played quarterback during his high school career for Coffee Country Central but is making the switch to wide receiver this season.
Tennessee wants Taylor to play wide receiver when he comes to the team and he has already begun working on his skills.
Taylor said he was happy with his performance at The Opening Finals as a wideout and consistently works to refine his route-running abilities.
2. 4-star DE Greg Emerson (6-5, 275 pounds), Tennessee
Emerson surprised everyone when he committed to the Vols in July. The decision wasn’t the surprise, as much as it was the timing, since Emerson originally planned to announce his commitment in December. Tennessee gets one of the best defensive linemen around and the best defensive player in the state.
Emerson’s size and brute force separate him from everyone else on the list.
Emerson sustained a dislocated left ankle and fractured left fibula at Nike’s The Opening and has been rehabbing his way back to health. The boot came off his leg in the second week of August, but he likely won’t play for Jackson North Side High School for at least a couple more weeks.
1. 5-star OT Cade Mays (6-5, 305 pounds), Tennessee
Really no surprise with Mays as the No. 1 player in the state and likely the least controversial ranking I’ll have on the list.
The Knoxville Catholic product chose Tennessee in July 2015 and immediately became the cornerstone of the Vols’ 2018 class. Not only is he the best player in the state, he is one of the best prospects in the country.
The future of Tennessee’s offensive line, including Mays and current freshman Trey Smith, looks brighter every day.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.