When you’re a new head coach and you’ve got a questionable future at a certain position, it’s crucial that you secure any elite player at that position on the recruiting trail. Josh Heupel has Tennessee football one step closer to doing just that.
The Vols made the top five for Memphis-area defensive lineman Walter Nolen. Listed as a five-star defensive tackle ranked in the top five nationally among all players and No. 1 in the state across all services, the Shelby County prospect stands between 6’4″ and 6’5″ and weighs in the 300 to 325-pound range.
Coming out of St. Benedict Academy in Cordova, Tenn., Nolen has the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines on his list in addition to Tennessee football. He announced the schools Friday afternoon on Twitter.
Defensive tackle is a crucial position of need for the Vols. They lost KaTron Evans and Isaac Washington from their 2021 class. Meanwhile, Aubrey Solomon, a key defensive tackle on this year’s team, will be gone in 2022. The same holds true for USC Trojans transfer Caleb Tremblay.
Given the recent transfer of Greg Emerson, Heupel has to do whatever he can to make sure the unit has a solid rotation beyond 2021. Commitment Jordan Phillips helps for the 2022 class along with the addition of Kansas Jayhawks transfer Da’John Terry, and there is some young talent with guys like Omari Thomas and Dominic Bailey combined with Kurrott Garland still being there.
That doesn’t change the fact that the Vols need more, though, and Nolen would be a huge addition for them. He would immediately boost their depth along with their quality, and with the switch back to a 4-3 nickel-heavy base under defensive coordinator Tim Banks, having multiple elite defensive tackles is a huge deal.
Currently, there are no 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions to land Nolen. Florida is the unanimous favorite on the Rivals Future Cast, though, even if Tennessee football is the plurality favorite on the Rivals Fan Future Cast. We don’t have enough information yet to project where he’s likely to end up, but the Vols need to do whatever is necessary to keep him in-state.