2020 five-star linebacker Sav’ell Smalls is one of the top recruits in the nation and he recently visited the Tennessee Vols.

Smalls, who is rated in 247Sports’ composite rankings as the No. 9 overall 2020 recruit, has offers from nearly every major program in the nation. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State are among the teams that have offered Smalls.

With Smalls being such a hot commodity, it’s understandable that the elite recruit doesn’t want to make a decision too early. In fact, the Washington native told VolQuest that he doesn’t plan to commit until January or February (which means he won’t be signing early).

So how will Smalls’ decision be made?

Well obviously there will be a lot of factors. Coaching staff, fan base, atmosphere, all the usual things. But one thing that Smalls is putting a major emphasis on is how Tennessee (and other schools he’s considering) performs next season.

Smalls told VolQuest “we’re going to see what Tennessee does next year and we’ll go from there”. The talented linebacker added that UT “doesn’t have to be in the college football playoff immediately”. Smalls noted that he just wants to see improvement from the Vols and not a team that is “stagnant”.

It seems pretty clear that as good of a recruiter as Jeremy Pruitt is, he won’t be able to land elite players like Smalls until the Vols are winning at least eight or nine games a season. Five-star players don’t want to help build programs. For the most part, they want to go to established programs, because it gives them a better chance at winning a national championship and reaching the NFL.

For Tennessee to land Smalls, they’ll need to show some major improvement in 2019. Essentially, Smalls will have to view UT as a program that has the potential to reach the College Football Playoff by the 2022 season.

Is that possible under Pruitt?

That’s a question that can’t be answered just yet.

Featured image via 247Sports 

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