The Tennessee Vols finished the 2019 recruiting cycle with the nation’s No. 12 recruiting class (per 247Sports).
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a couple of highly rated recruits in that class will likely start for the Vols this season.
There are two players specifically that I’d be surprised if they weren’t starting in 2019 — linebacker Henry To’oto’o and offensive lineman Wanya Morris.
Jeremy Pruitt with glowing remarks on freshman ILB Henry To’oto’o. Said the former Top 100 prospect is “what you’re looking for in a LB.”
Noted that To’oto’o is smart, instinctive, can cover, can already make the calls and is a three-down guy.
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) August 7, 2019
The Vols desperately need a player to step up and be the quarterback of the defense. It’s been a while since they’ve had a dominant middle/inside linebacker. To’oto’o has the potential to be that guy early in his career at Tennessee.
It helps that To’oto’o comes a high school program (De La Salle) that operates much like a college program. There’s no doubt that To’oto’o is more prepared to play in the SEC than most newcomers.
Morris, the other true freshman I believe will be a starter in UT’s season opener against Georgia State, has been working mostly at left tackle during fall camp.
The Georgia native is one of two elite offensive line recruits that Tennessee signed in 2019 (Darnell Wright being the other). I think both Morris and Wright will finish the season as the Vols’ starting offensive tackles. But I don’t think Wright will start against Georgia State.
Morris had the added benefit of taking part in spring practice. He’s essentially a step ahead of Wright at the moment because of spring practice (though I don’t think it will take Wright long to catch up).
The fact that two true freshmen will likely start at two of the most important positions on the field says a lot about the state of Tennessee’s football program.
For one, it shows that Pruitt is an elite recruiter. Anytime a true freshman starts, at any program, it’s a sign that they were properly evaluated as recruits.
Of course, two true freshmen starting also shows the uphill battle that Pruitt has in front of him. This is still a team without a lot of depth or many established starters.
As Pruitt builds the program, he won’t have to rely on true freshmen. But for now, he doesn’t have a choice.
Elite talent wins football games. That means Pruitt has to play the elite talent on his roster, regardless of their lack of experience.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports