Tennessee football gets another huge steal in walk-on DB, former Michigan State commit

Shannon Blair of Knoxville West is named one of Knox News' Elite 8, a collection of the top college football prospects in the Knoxville area for the Class of 2021.Kns Elite 8 2021
Shannon Blair of Knoxville West is named one of Knox News' Elite 8, a collection of the top college football prospects in the Knoxville area for the Class of 2021.Kns Elite 8 2021 /

He’s not technically going to count towards the 2022 recruiting class since Tennessee football is adding him as a preferred walk-on. However, by committing in such a way, the Vols just picked up a gigantic steal in local prospect Shannon Blair.

A three-star across the board out of West High School in Knoxville, Tenn., Blair was committed to the Michigan State Spartans from June until December of last year. He had offers from numerous other programs that just had successful years, including the Purdue Boilermakers, Cincinnati Bearcats and Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Josh Heupel and his staff also offered Blair. Standing between 5’11” and 6’1″ and weighing in the range of 168 to 175 pounds, Blair announced Wednesday morning that he would join Tennessee football. Dan Harralson of VolsWire reported that he will be a preferred walk-on.

Make no mistake, this is rare. The Vols picked up somebody who could have gone somewhere else on scholarship, and that’s one less scholarship they have to use. With NIL deals changing the game, you have to think this will be more common in the future, as sometimes that money could outweigh the scholarship offers.

Blair follows another defensive player who did something similar on Monday, which we wrote about here in the wave of walk-on commitments UT received that day. Athlete Derek Taylor out of Greenbrier High School in Robinson County, Tenn., which is just north of Nashville, is a three-star on 247Sports and joined UT as a preferred walk-on.

However, even Taylor wasn’t rated across as many services as Blair, and he didn’t have as many high-profile FBS offers, especially from schools like Michigan State, which just finished the season in the top 10 in Mel Tucker’s second year. That offer is a huge deal.

As a two-way athlete, Blair’s size suggests he’ll play defensive back. However, his Hudl profile says he runs a 4.49 40-yard dash, and if that gets better, he could be the new speedster to line up in the slot at receiver. Here is a look at his junior year highlight reel.

What’s clear with this video is that Blair is great with the ball in open space, which could make him a huge threat as a return specialist. His instinct for the ball may make him a better fit at safety if he plays defense, even though he plays cornerback in high school.

Multiple specialists also commit

Although Blair was the most high-profile pickup as a preferred walk-on during National Signing Day, he wasn’t the only Knox County, Tenn. player to join Tennessee football. Knoxville Catholic kicker Josh Turbyville also joined UT as a preferred walk-on.

With this upcoming year set to be the final year for Paxton Brooks and Chase McGrath, assuming they both stay, the Vols will need help at kicker in the future. Turbyville could be the person to provide that. His decision was announced by the Twitter account for his school, Knoxville Catholic.

According to Dan Harralson of VolsWire, Turbyville stands at 6’2″ 195 pounds and serves as his team’s kicker and the punter. Based on other recruiting profiles of him, it appears as if punter is where he will spend his time at the college level.

Meanwhile, Memphis-area prospect Bennett Brady also joined the Vols as a long snapper. Brady, who hails out of Evangelical Christian School in Cordova, Tenn., also announced his commitment to Rocky Top on Twitter Wednesday morning.

Standing at 6’1″ 185 pounds, Brady is the No. 3 rated long snapper on Kohl’s in the nation. With Will Albright in the transfer portal, Matthew Salansky is the only proven quality long snapper on the roster right now, so the Shelby County prospect is an underrated pickup.

National Signing Day: Five prospects to watch for. dark. Next

It’s hard to predict what becomes of specialists, but before picking up even one commitment on National Signing Day, Tennessee football addressed huge special teams needs and got a huge steal. Josh Heupel is a bit unorthodox with the way he is adding talent, but he deserves credit for how he’s doing it. This all bodes well for UT’s future.