Saturday night was a double blow for Tennessee football on the recruiting trail. The Vols lost one of their most elite commitments, and it could be indicative of things to come in the future given where he decided to go less than 12 hours later.
Alabama defensive back Sylvester Smith, a 2023 four-star across the board except for ON3, where he is a three-star, decommitted from Rocky Top. Standing between 5’11” and 6’1″ while weighing in the range of 190 to 200 pounds, Smith is listed as a safety across the board
Coming out of Munford High School in Talladega County, Ala., Smith is an obvious loss not just because of his profile but because of the need Tennessee football has at safety. He announced his decommitment on Instagram Saturday night.
The Vols had notable issues in the secondary this past year, and it’s going to get worse with free safety Trevon Flowers leaving. As a result, this is one of the top positions of need for UT. Smith had been committed to them since April, so this is a huge loss.
Adding insult to injury, though, is the fact that the following morning, Smith decided to commit to the Auburn Tigers and new head coach Hugh Freeze. He announced the decision, just as he did his decommitment, on Instagram.
Make no mistake, this is an issue for Tennessee football. It’s bad enough that the Vols lost an elite prospect at a position of need, but it’s worse that Freeze’s presence at a nearby school could flip a recruit who was with UT for eight months so quickly.
Honestly, if that trend continues, Josh Heupel is going to have an even tougher job recruiting. Kirby Smart has the Georgia Bulldogs rolling right now, so they have first dibs on Georgia talent. The Alabama Crimson Tide are second, though, under Nick Saban.
Now, Saban and Freeze could be enough to completely wall off the state of Alabama, and Freeze could also make a push in Georgia. As a result, things just got a lot more difficult for Rocky Top in a couple of their recruiting pipelines.
There are still five defensive backs committed to Tennessee football plus an athlete who could play defensive back, but Smith’s decommitment generates lots of concerns. It’s a personnel loss for the obvious reasons but also a loss in terms of what they are up against on the trail in the future. Those are real issues.