By Alex Norman
National Signing Day just isn’t the same.
For years, the first Wednesday in February was an unofficial holiday in this country, especially to the folks in areas that care the most about college football. Fans stayed glued to their computers to keep up with the latest information on the internet. Some watched cameras pointed at fax machines as the National Letters of Intent rolled in.
Tennessee used to produce its own live show on its website for hours on end. It was must see TV.
But in December 2017 the game changed with the early signing period. Now, the large majority of student-athletes sign on the dotted line during a three day span right before Christmas.
NSD… we miss you. This year, Tennessee inked 19 players in December, and only signed two more last week to complete the Class of 2019. But what a duo they were.
We started with five-star offensive lineman Darnell Wright from Huntington, West Virginia. Wright, listed at 6-6 and 320 pounds, was the 5th best player in the nation according to ESPN. He is projected to play offensive tackle at Tennessee.
“Darnell is a guy that is a big powerful man that can play any of the five spots on the offensive line,” said Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt. “Another good student… and a guy that won a state championship as a junior.”
Considering the mess that Tennessee’s offensive line has been in recent years, the addition of Wright was huge for this program. Back in December they inked another five-star offensive lineman, Wanya Morris from Loganville, Georgia. Wright and Morris, also projected to play tackle, could be the bookends of the Vols offensive line for the next three to four years.
“When you look at these guys, they are all big men that are athletic,” said Pruitt of his offensive line class, which also includes four-stars Chris Akporoghene (who used to live in Seymour) and Jackson Lampley from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. “They can bend and they can slide their feet. They play the right way… It’s a position that we need some depth and competition in, but when you look at our football team, that is probably everywhere. There is probably not one position where you can say that we have enough guys. I think with this class, we have hit some needs and we have more depth. There will be more competition so that will make everyone better.”
Considering how up in the air the future of Trey Smith is at Tennessee, shoring up the offensive line was crucial for Jeremy Pruitt.
Then, later in the afternoon, four-star linebacker Henry To’oto’o picked the Vols over Alabama. The 6-2, 230 pound star is from the legendary De La Salle High School program in California. That’s the same program that produced former Vol Kevin Simon, who is currently the Player Development coach at UT.
When the dust settles, Tennessee should end up with a consensus top-12 class nationally.
“When you look at this class, I think we signed guys that are used to having success,” said Pruitt. “Some big men. Guys that are good with the ball in their hand. I think they are going to add depth of our team and create competition. Leaders of their football teams. Captains of their football teams. I think it is a great class to lay the foundation for what we want to achieve here.”