Tennessee appears primed to pick up a big-time recruit over SEC rivals on Saturday: four-star linebacker J.J. Peterson.
J.J. Peterson, a Moultrie, Georgia native, is the No. 44 player in the country, and No. 2 outside linebacker.
He was considered an Alabama lean through much of the fall, but Tennessee's hire of Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has significantly changed things for Peterson.
A few weeks ago, he told SEC Country that Tennessee was his leader, even without taking a visit to Knoxville.
Because Pruitt is no longer in Tuscaloosa, Peterson considers Tennessee, a school he hasn’t visited yet, his leader. Pruitt hired Georgia outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer to be the Volunteers’ defensive coordinator. That also has an effect on Peterson because Sherrer was his primary recruiter at Georgia.
“I have a strong connection with Coach Pruitt and Coach Sherrer,” Peterson said. “I also have two former teammates there [Shawn Shamburger and Jay Blakely]. I know people there. Coach Pruitt leaving has changed the whole game for me.”
More recently, Peterson told USA Todaythat Pruitt isn't the biggest factor. It is the chance to play with two current Vols from Colquitt County High School:
“I’m going to Tennessee and it’s not because of (new head coach Jeremy) Pruitt, (Kevin) Sherrer or the coach who’s coming from Florida State (Charles Kelly),” Peterson said. “I’ve got two players (from Colquitt) who are there in (redshirt freshman defensive lineman) Ja’Quain Blakely and (freshman defensive back) Shawn Shamburger. Those are two people I can start something with and every time I play with them, I have a good time.”
Peterson is expected to compete for playing time right away if he does, in fact, settle on Tennessee. That decision is coming on Saturday at the US Army All-American Bowl, and it doesn't sound like there'll be too much drama involved.