Reality…until proven otherwise on the field in college, all players that sign with Tennessee are the best players. Your opinion does not matter at all. If it did the coaches would have asked for it. Meanwhile, Vol fans are excited we got a player the coaches think will help us win games….,reality.
Here's what I can tell you about those rankings. The day you step on campus, they don't mean squat in the eyes of the coaches, or your teammates. Everybody is starting over at square one. The coaches that make promises to 5 stars create toxic environments.
The closest we can get is listening to folks like AP and RC. On the 247 podcasts yesterday RC said the staff has made him and Telander priorities for a while. Love them. That says a lot when we’re in on some top rated guys. Means the staff feels very comfortable with their own evaluations.
Tennessee took another step toward addressing its needs in the secondary and landed one of its longtime targets Saturday with the addition of John Slaughter, a Class of 2023 safety. The rising senior at Southaven (Miss.) High School, just outside Memphis, Tenn., chose the Vols over Ole Miss and Florida State, revealing his decision during his official visit to Knoxville this weekend.
Cooper Petagna, a 247Sports national recruiting analyst, said he believes the 6-foot-1.5, 194-pound Slaughter ultimately could develop "into a starter-caliber player at the next level," and he's capable of helping Tennessee in multiple areas.
“Floating around 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Slaughter possesses the frame and growth potential to project as a boundary safety at the next level with the ability to add some value as a slot defender at the next level," Petagna said of Slaughter, who's ranked the No. 734 overall prospect and
No. 61 safety in the 2023 class and the No. 13 rising senior from the state of Mississippi, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite.
"With a productive showing at the Under Armour (Next Camp Series stop) in Atlanta in February, Slaughter flashed some promising man-to-man coverage skills in the slot that should couple well with his willingness as a run-support defender in Knoxville."
Slaughter received a scholarship offer from Tennessee coach Josh Heupel's staff a little more than a year ago and has been one of their top priorities at the safety position over the past several months. He joined Jack Luttrell of Colquitt County High School in Moultrie, Ga., and four-star Sylvester Smith of Munford (Ala.) High School as the third projected safety in Tennessee's 2023 recruiting class.
More than a dozen schools have extended offers to Slaughter, including Ole Miss, Florida State, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Memphis and Southern Miss. He first referred to Tennessee as his leader after attending the Vols' junior day on Jan. 22, and they have been the favorites to land him for months.
Slaughter plans to graduate from Southaven in December and arrive at Tennessee in January as an early enrollee. Once he gets there, Petagna said, he might be capable of contributing right away on special teams, if nothing else, while he settles in on defense.
"Expect more of a developmental trajectory for Slaughter on his way to rounding into a starter-caliber player at the next level," Petagna said, "but don't discount his ability to make an impact on special rooms sooner rather than later.”
Southaven (Miss.) High School coach Eddie Stevenson has worked with enough high-level prospects over the years to know talent when he sees it. And he doesn’t have any questions about John Slaughter’s ability to make an impact at Tennessee.
Slaughter, a Class of 2023 safety, announced his commitment to the Vols on Saturday during his official visit to Knoxville, choosing Tennessee over Ole Miss and Florida State. He has received scholarship offers from more than a dozen schools, but his list of offers and his current ratings don’t necessarily reflect how much of a priority he has been for the Vols over the past several months.
Stevenson said he believes the 6-foot-1.5, 194-pound Slaughter has been overlooked by some major programs simply because there are plenty of defensive backs across the country, and he hasn’t attended many camps at major college programs. But he said talent isn't an issue for Slaughter.
“Do I feel like John’s the most skilled player in the state? You’re damn right,” Stevenson said of Slaughter, who’s ranked the No. 734 overall prospect and No. 61 safety in the 2023 class, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite. “Do I think he’s probably one of the top in the South and in the nation? You’re damn right I do.
“But there’s also a lot of other 6-2, 195-pound cats that are really skilled, as well, so I think when you start getting into those types of games, unless you roll out of bed and you run a 4.3(-second 40-yard dash), then you’ve got to camp at those places for them to make those decisions. …
“The hardest position to find now in college football is a D-lineman, D-tackles. And then, after that, with high school ball doing so much 7-on-7 and just how fast-paced the game is, you’ve developed and they’ve created a whole lot more skill players. They’re not all going to be as skilled as John, but there’s a much more abundance of it.
“So, then, I think when it comes to those situations, it’s about getting them on campus, camping them and go from there. And if you ain’t camping, then they’re just not going to worry about you when it comes to skills.”
Regardless of the reasons Slaughter might have been overlooked by some teams to this point, Stevenson said Slaughter is “up there with some of the best that we’ve had” at Southaven. Texas freshman defensive lineman Aaron Bryant, a four-star Class of 2022 prospect, and Oregon wide receiver Isaiah Brevard, a four-star Class of 2021 prospect, are among the players Southaven has produced in recent years.
“Honestly, we’ve been fortunate with some talented guys over the years at Southaven, and John’s up there with some of the best that we’ve had,” Stevenson said. “He can do any of it. And he’s a ballhawk. He’ll come down and he’ll hit, and he’s a good hitter and a good tackler because he’s a 6-2, 195-pound kid and he’s strong.
“But his ballhawk capabilities — I mean, I’ve got a kid in the NBA in Terence Davis Jr., and John’s jump-ball skills are every bit as good as Junior’s, and Junior’s in the NBA. If it goes up and it’s within his half of the field, he’s going to get it. And if he’s in the middle of the field, at that next level, they better not throw it between the numbers and the hash or he’ll get to it.
“Just his ball skills are just different. We’ve been saying that since he was a freshman: He’s different, and that everybody better not look at what he’s doing and try to mimic it because, if I had a bunch that could mimic what he does, then we’d be all right. We’d be a whole lot better off.”
Stevenson said Slaughter has an impressive work ethic that will serve him well once he arrives at Tennessee in January, adding that Slaughter is “big in the weight room, and he’s going to get in the weight room and he’s going to do his business there.”
“Over the years — I’ve been coaching almost 20 years — and one of the things with that: Your skill players, when squat day comes, they tend to be the ones that want to disappear the fastest,” Stevenson said. “And our place, thanks to the leadership of John and some of my other skill guys, that’s when the volume goes up a little bit higher.
“They embrace that side, that work ethic and understanding of what it takes, that the weight room’s a major part. … That’s one of the things that helps make him different, as well. The strength department will definitely enjoy what they’re getting, as well.”
Stevenson said Slaughter, like almost any player, will have to adjust to playing against elite competition in the SEC. But he said Slaughter has a “drive” to improve on and off the field and likes to “see where he’s gotten beat and what he did wrong so he can fix it,” and that should help him reach his potential with the Vols.
“There’s always a learning curve. … One thing that’ll be a big adjustment for him is just getting around the consistent, high-level quarterback play, and just the consistency and the speed of receivers,” Stevenson said of Slaughter. “Because he’s the type of cat, ever since he was a freshman, he could lag behind guys and then just go get the ball. And, at every level, that window gets even smaller and smaller, so that’ll be the thing that he’ll have to make that adjustment to. …
“But the beauty of John is his humility and the fact that he wants to look at what he’s done wrong, fix his mistakes and focus on what he did wrong and correcting those so he can be ready for the next, and that’s one of the things that’s helped distinguish him so much.
“In the ego-driven world we’re in right now, those type of cats, mixed in with some athleticism, they can be different real quick.”
Initially, the plan was to announce a decision in July. But three-star Mississippi safety John Slaughter knew he had to move the timeline up.
He had to announce his commitment to Tennessee this weekend, during his official visit with the Vols.
“I did it for my mom’s birthday this weekend,” Slaughter said on Sunday. "I just felt like it was the right time. I planned on doing it. I wanted to do it in July, but I just said I was going to do it on my mom’s birthday, to make it special. That’s why I pulled the trigger.
The 6-foot-1.5, 194-pound Slaughter, out of Southaven High School in Southaven, Miss., is the No. 13 overall prospect out of the state of Mississippi in 2023, according to the 247Sports Composite. He’s ranked No. 61 nationally among safeties in the class.
While his decision to commit to Tennessee was made previously, he said the weekend spent with the Vols solidified what he had already decided.
“It did a lot,” Slaughter said. “It showed the players, how the take care of you. I feel like I need to be around people who just love you and show that they care about you.”
He could see that in the reaction after he went public with his commitment.
“They went crazy,” Slaughter said of Tennessee’s coaches. “And I went crazy. I was stuck in the moment because there was so much going on, a lot of people sharing it. It just went viral.”
Slaughter didn’t stay stuck in the moment too long, though. He quickly went from being recruiting by the Vols to recruiting for them.
“I did (it) fast,” Slaughter said of starting his own recruiting pitch. “They loved it as well. I want them to go on and pull the trigger. We got a couple coming soon … you’ll see it when it happens.”
Slaughter was hosted on the visit junior defensive back and Memphis native Tamarion McDonald. He noted he got to spend time with former Tennessee defensive backs Alontae Taylor and Theo Jackson during the visit as well.
“(McDonald) just talks about what everybody else talks about,” Slaughter said. “(Tennessee is) home. They make you feel special. They love you and they actually care.”
Now, with his own recruitment over, Slaughter is taking a chance to step back and enjoy it.
“It feels good because it was stressful at a point,” he said. “But after I knew I was coming here, I knew I had a break and I just took a break on everything. And pulled the trigger when I felt comfortable.”
Now he’s hoping others will do the same.
“I’m going to keep recruiting some other guys,” Slaughter said. “I’m chilling right now.”