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Nebraska and Tennessee’s recruiting battles impact 2018 classes
Normally, recruiting battles take place because of regional proximity or two blue-chip programs constantly trying to gain an edge over that next 5-star recruit. But Nebraska and Tennessee have found themselves pitted against one another frequently this recruiting cycle for a couple of reasons, despite not necessarily sharing common recruiting areas. (However, both programs recruit across the country simply because there aren’t enough prospects or talent nearby to fill a roster.)
For one, both programs endured coaching changes this season. Disregard the idea Nebraska handled the hiring of its new coach, Scott Frost, almost perfectly, while Tennessee’s search was not textbook, yet still hired a solid coach in Jeremy Pruitt. Frost, Pruitt and their respective staffs had little time to prepare and recruit the 2018 class with the early signing period looming. To account for roster attrition and general depth, both programs targeted the top, uncommitted junior college prospects. That served a twofold purpose because those players usually can step in and at least contribute quickly after their arrival on campus.
Nebraska ended up signing 12 prospects during the early signing period, and Tennessee signed 14 recruits. Nebraska has the 40th-ranked class, according to 247Sports, and Tennessee owns the No. 21 class.
Naturally, the two programs ended up targeting the same players. There was one pivotal flip between the schools, too, that perhaps flipped the scales to the Huskers when evaluating the competition between Nebraska and Tennessee this recruiting cycle.
Prospects who had offers from Nebraska and Tennessee
Adrian Martinez — Nebraska signee
The 4-star dual-threat quarterback had been committed to Tennessee, but that commitment was shaky because of the coaching change. It became even cloudier when Nebraska offered him right after the new staff completed its victory over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. The next weekend, Adrian Martinez was taking his official visit, and you could tell Nebraska had the momentum. Martinez committed to Nebraska two days after leaving Lincoln during an in-home visit with Frost and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco, completing the flip. But Tennessee didn’t go quietly, with Pruitt stopping by for an in-home visit the night before he committed to the Huskers.
Jahmir Johnson — Tennessee signee
A product of Arizona Western College, one of the nation’s top community colleges, Jahmir Johnson picked up offers from the two schools within four days of each other. Nebraska running backs coach Ryan Held visited with the 3-star tackle at his school, but the early proceedings went to Tennessee, which secured an official visit the weekend before the early signing period. He originally was going to wait to announce his decision but committed to Tennessee on Dec. 27.
Jaron Woodyard — Nebraska signee
Another Arizona Western product, Jaron Woodyard committed to Nebraska following his official visit the weekend of Dec. 8. The next weekend, though, he took his official visit to Tennessee, along with Johnson. But the Huskers hung on to the speedy 3-star receiver’s commitment; he signed his letter of intent on Dec. 20, the first day of the early signing period.
Greg Bell — Nebraska signee
A junior college teammate of Johnson and Woodyard, Greg Bell was another prospect who visited Nebraska one weekend and Tennessee the next. The Huskers made the better impression because he announced he was signing his letter of intent to Nebraska on Dec. 20. Nebraska was the leader for him all along despite the Tennessee visit.
Jordan Allen — Tennessee signee
Held checked in with Jordan Allen and Nebraska would have loved to host him on campus for an official visit, but Allen ultimately opted to take his final official visit to Tennessee, which took place the weekend before the early signing period. That Wednesday, with Nebraska a long shot at that point to sign Allen, the 3-star defensive end signed with Tennessee, providing the Volunteers with a solid pass-rush presence.
Jeremy Banks — Tennessee signee
Jeremy Banks’ recruitment began slowly, with Wyoming and Iowa State leaders for him at one point. However, his official visit to Nebraska the weekend of Nov. 4 put the Huskers in a favorable position. But the new Tennessee staff made Banks a priority recruit, offering him on Dec. 9, conducting an in-home visit three days later and hosting him for an official visit that weekend. When he announced his decision on the first day of the early signing period, he was solid to Tennessee, a big win for the program by keeping the 3-star running back in-state.
Jerome Carvin — Tennessee signee
Jerome Carvin, a 4-star offensive lineman, was Banks’ teammate at Cordova High School, and he also stayed in-state by signing with the Volunteers. The two actually announced their decisions together. Nebraska’s new staff offered Carvin in the first days of being on the job, and offensive line coach Greg Austin stopped by for an in-home visit. The Huskers had too much ground to make up, and the new Tennessee staff made up that significant ground.
Dominick Wood-Anderson — Tennessee signee
Despite Held checking in with the nation’s top JUCO tight end, Nebraska never had a chance with Dominick Wood-Anderson. He took an official visit to Tennessee the weekend before the early signing period, and that appeared to seal his decision.
Final assessment of recruiting competition between Nebraska, Tennessee
The scorecard here reads a 5-3 win for Tennessee. So, on the surface, Tennessee came out on top. But I think it’s more nuanced than that. For example, landing Martinez was a coup of the entire recruiting class, not just for Nebraska. And on the other side, Tennessee had clear advantages with the in-state prospects, Carvin and Banks.
At the end of the day, I think it would be fair to call this a win for the Volunteers by the smallest of margins, or a draw. It is that close.
Was this recruiting battle an anomaly? Probably. But whenever these two teams go at it again, it won’t be the first time.
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