A ques­tion for Jeremy Pruitt: Where is JJ Peter­son?

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID COBB STAFF WRITER

Ten­nessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt will be in At­lanta on Wed­nes­day for his de­but ap­pear­ance at SEC Me­dia Days. The Times Free Press is re­view­ing key top­ics that Pruitt will likely be asked to ad­dress when the Vol­un­teers take their turn in front of the re­porters.

Where is J.J. Peter­son?

With three weeks to go un­til first-year Ten­nessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt kicks off pre­sea­son prac­tice with a news con­fer­ence on cam­pus, the crown jewel of his 2018 sign­ing class has yet to en­roll.

Pruitt should ex­pect to be drilled Wed­nes­day on when Peter­son will ar­rive on cam­pus and if there’s any chance that aca­demic or other is­sues will hin­der the prized linebacker’s chances of play­ing this sea­son.

Na­tional sign­ing day took the Vol­un­teers through emo­tional highs and lows, but one of the un­ques­tioned highs was when Peter­son put on a Ten­nessee cap dur­ing his sign­ing cer­e­mony at Colquitt County High School in south­ern Ge­or­gia. But his sta­tus came into ques­tion when he did not re­port to sum­mer school with the other play­ers who signed in Fe­bru­ary.

In in­ter­views with other me­dia out­lets, Colquitt County coach Rush Propst has ex­pressed con­fi­dence that Peter­son will be el­i­gi­ble to play this sea­son. But even if he ar­rives in time for the be­gin­ning of pre­sea­son prac­tice, his de­layed en­roll­ment will put him at a dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to Ten­nessee’s other fresh­men, who have spent the sum­mer work­ing out un­der the di­rec­tion of the strength and con­di­tion­ing staff and be­gin­ning col­lege course­work.

A 247Sports fourstar prospect and the na­tion’s 48th over­all player in the 2018 class, Peter­son chose the Vols over Alabama and likely is tal­ented enough to com­pete for an im­me­di­ate role on de­fense, or at least spe­cial teams, this sea­son.

Quart’e Sapp, Daniel Bi­t­uli and Dar­rin Kirkland Jr. are re­turn­ing in­te­rior lineback­ers with vet­eran savvy, though Kirkland’s ca­reer has been marred by in­juries. Sopho­mores Solon Page, Shanon Reid and Will Ignont also will com­pete for play­ing time in the mid­dle of the linebacker corps dur­ing pre­sea­son prac­tice.

Still, Peter­son is a crit­i­cal piece for the fu­ture of Ten­nessee’s de­fense. Pruitt and Propst have a long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship, dat­ing back to when Pruitt worked for Propst at Hoover High School in Alabama. So it’s likely that the Vols’ staff was well-versed dur­ing the re­cruit­ing process on any po­ten­tial aca­demic is­sues fac­ing Peter­son.

But now the countdown is on to pre­sea­son prac­tice with ques­tions still sur­round­ing the sta­tus of Pruitt’s most-cel­e­brated 2018 re­cruit.

Con­tact David Cobb at dcobb@times­freep­ress.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @DavidWCobb and on Face­book at face­book.com/vol­sup­date.

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