In 2017, Alontae Taylor was a longtime four-star commitment to Butch Jones and Tennessee football as an in-state athlete. At that time, it appeared as if he would play wide receiver. Then he decommitted during the coaching drama, only to recommit when Jeremy Pruitt took over.
Then, as a freshman, he played in 12 games and started nine of them as a cornerback. With 40 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, a partially blocked punt and a defensive touchdown, he had a very solid rookie campaign. This year, Taylor returns as a guy who figures to have a breakout season at cornerback.
With a year of experience under his belt, Taylor’s potential is through the roof. However, his potential is not the only reason he’s so high on this list. Despite Pruitt’s incredibly great recruiting class in the secondary, Taylor is one of only five guys with any proven experience playing cornerback.
Three of them, Baylen Buchanan, Shawn Shamburger and Cheyenne Labruzza, are competing to start at safety or the nickel spot. So Taylor’s 2018 production, his potential and the lack of proven experience at his position all make him a safe starter for the Vols. He’s in great shape to start every game with his athleticism and versatility.