On Saturday morning, reports and rumors circulated that one of the Tennessee Vols’ primary 2020 recruiting targets, four-star offensive lineman Tate Ratledge, was considering not signing until February, instead of during the early signing period that begins on December 18.

Ratledge, who was a Tennessee fan growing up, tweeted on Saturday evening, however, that he was shutting down his recruitment and signing with Georgia next week.

There was a glimmer of hope for the Vols last week. UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt and tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer, Tennessee’s ace recruiter, were able to visit with Ratledge at his high school last week. The door appeared to be open a bit for the Vols after offensive line coach Sam Pittman left Georgia to become the new head coach at Arkansas.

It’s certainly possible that Ratledge chose Georgia because he sees Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright anchoring Tennessee’s offensive line for at least the next two years.

Morris started all but one game for the Vols as a true freshman, mostly holding down the left tackle spot. And Wright, also a true freshman, started multiple games at right tackle (he also played some at guard).

Of course, an offensive line never makes it through a season entirely healthy. There are always opportunities. If Ratledge would’ve ended up with the Vols, it’s possible that Wright would’ve moved to guard and Ratledge could’ve had the right tackle spot.

Imagine how nasty an offensive line combination of Morris, Wright and Ratledge would’ve been?

(Oh what could’ve been, sorry to bring that up, Vol fans.)

It’s also likely that Ratledge chose to stick with his commitment to Georgia because he sees a better opportunity to win a national championship with the Bulldogs — even without the presence of Pittman. There’s no doubt that Georgia is closer than Tennessee. And Kirby Smart has proved he has the ability to get the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff, whereas Pruitt is still trying to get the Vols there (it’s worth noting that Pruitt has had a steeper hill to climb than Smart did).

By the way, it’s a bit ironic that a coach with a deep Tennessee connection probably helped Georgia hold on to Ratledge.

Former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke is the Bulldogs’ new offensive line coach.

Luke was Tennessee’s offensive line coach from 2006-07 under Phillip Fulmer and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe. Luke also coached with Cutcliffe at Ole Miss (2002-04) and Duke (2008-11).

The Vols did all they could to land Ratledge. Some situations just prevent recruiting battles from being won. Tennessee is still recovering from the damage Butch Jones did to the program.

Perhaps a year or two from now this is the type of battle the Vols will win.

Until then, they’ll just have to keep grinding on the recruiting trail.

Featured image via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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