Tennessee football suffered a decommitment Sunday night from four-star safety Antonio Johnson. Here’s why that shouldn’t concern the Volunteers.
Decommitments are always bad. They are especially bad when the decommitment is a four-star, you have a recruiting class fighting to stay in the top 30 nationally while competing in the SEC, and your coming off a 5-7 season. But in this rare instance, Jeremy Pruitt shouldn’t worry about Tennessee football suffering such a loss.
Four-star safety Antonio Johnson out of East St. Louis High School in East St. Louis, Ill., who committed to the Vols back in early June, decommitted Sunday night. A top 100 player nationally on Rivals and a top 10 player at his position, Johnson’s decommitment was certainly a blow.
The top-ranked player in the state of Illinois brought unique size for a player at 6’3″ 180 pounds and was definitely a boost for Tennessee football’s recruiting class. He announced his decommitment from the Vols on Twitter directly following a visit with the Texas A&M Aggies.
My recruitment is now 100% open‼️
— 2️⃣ (@Antonio_johns0n) July 29, 2019
Given all the things we mentioned, yes, Pruitt and Derrick Ansley would prefer to have Johnson on their roster heading into 2020. However, despite needing to upgrade the talent, if there’s one area where Pruitt has loaded up, it’s in the secondary.
Let’s just start with this class alone. Tennessee football already has two four-star commitments and a three-star athlete who is likely to play defensive back committed. That comes off a class in which he had six defensive backs, three of whom were four-stars, committed.
Even Pruitt’s first class, in 2018, while light on talent, secured five defensive back commitments, two of whom were four-stars. Both of those four-stars, Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson, are locked in at cornerback for UT after breakout freshman campaigns. Okay, so that’s the secondary as a whole. But what about safety in particular?
Well, this class already has Art Green, a four-star junior college transfer who is likely to play safety. Meanwhile, Trevon Flowers is a favorite to start at safety this year. A three-star in the 2018 class, he was clearly undervalued and had his rating held back because he played baseball in the spring instead of attending camps.
For the 2019 Tennessee football recruiting class, three of the six commitments, including four-star Jaylen McCullough, were listed as safeties. If you have any questions about that group, McCullough had two interceptions in the spring game and should have been MVP.
Now, one of them, three-star Anthony Harris, still hasn’t signed and isn’t on the roster. But even without him, Pruitt’s recruiting has locked in four legitimate safeties who should remain with the Vols through 2021.
Then there’s two-star commitment from Brandon Davis from 2018 and Butch Jones holdover Cheyenne Labruzza, who is only a redshirt sophomore. So if you’re keeping score, Tennessee football is set to have six safeties on the roster through 2021.
Three of them, Flowers, Labruzza and McCullough, have already shown that they have a ton of potential at this level. As a four-star junior college commitment, Green should add to that. So that makes a potentially elite two-deep rotation at safety after this year, when Nigel Warrior leaves.
Taking all this into account, Antonio Johnson is not the biggest loss in the world for Tennessee football. And hey, this decommitment only came after his visit with Texas A&M. We have no idea if he may decide to recommit in the future.
Incredible depth in at safety already for the future, numerous more options in the secondary as a whole and the fact that Johnson is still in play are all reasons to not panic over his decommitment. Pruitt, Ansley and the Vols will be fine, especially given their proven track records of maximizing the secondary talent they already have.