ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Huntington (W.Va.) offensive lineman Darnell Wright blocks during a playoff game against South Charleston in November 2017. Wright, a 6-foot-6, 320-pounder, signed with Tennessee on Wednesday, giving the Vols a five-star addition to their offensive line.

Updated at 12:08 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, with more information.

KNOXVILLE — After an early-morning lull on national signing day, Darnell Wright lit up the afternoon for Tennessee.

Sitting on a stage at Huntington High School in West Virginia, Wright chose the Volunteers over offers from 22 other college football programs, including a late push from his home-state Mountaineers.

"I'm going to be continuing my academic and football career at the university of " Wright said Wednesday during a ceremony televised by ESPN, before unzipping a black warmup jacket to reveal an orange Tennessee shirt.

His smile amid applause said the rest.

The addition of Wright to Tennessee's 2019 signing class didn't stun many. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound, five-star offensive lineman, rated the No. 10 player in the country by 247Sports.com, was long considered to be leaning toward the Vols. But most may have been surprised about an hour earlier, when four-star linebacker Henry To'oto'o, who played at De La Salle in Concord, California, announced his commitment to the Vols over offers from Alabama and Washington.

To'oto'o, who signed Wednesday night, was the third-best inside linebacker recruit in the nation, according to Rivals, and the fourth-best outside linebacker, according to 247Sports.

The Vols went 5-7 and missed a bowl last season, Jeremy Pruitt's first as head coach, but his impact is being felt on the recruiting trail.

"Just talking to Coach Pruitt and how he's going to change things around there," To'oto'o said on ESPN when asked why he chose Tennessee. "Having a close relationship with him and relationships with everybody down there, it just felt good."

Thirty minutes after To'oto'o's announcement, three-star defensive back Kenney Solomon selected Tennessee over Central Florida and late offers from Louisville and Rutgers.

The trio pushed Tennessee to the No. 12 recruiting class in the country, according to both 247Sports and Rivals. ESPN had the Vols at 11th. In addition, the average ranking of players according to 247Sports, 90.49, is the highest average ranking for Tennessee since 2009.

Wright's addition gave the Vols five offensive linemen in the 2019 signing class, with two of those — Chris Akporoghene and Wanya Morris — already on campus. It also puts the Vols in pretty elite company, because they are one of 11 programs in the country to sign multiple five-star prospects. The other 10 programs won at least nine games last season, with nine winning 10.

"I just felt as though it was a good fit for me," Wright said on ESPN. "Not just football, but everything. I had a good relationship with all the coaches. They treated me well, treated me as a real person. There was just a family feeling of going there. Everybody there is welcoming; I don't know if it's a Southern thing, but that's what it is."

The Vols signed 19 players in December during the early period, and 10 of those signees have already enrolled. They have added defensive line transfer Aubrey Solomon from Michigan and defensive back transfer DeAngelo Gibbs from Georgia, who could move to receiver at Tennessee. They also have 2019 commitments from two more defensive backs — Anthony Harris, a four-star recruit who committed over the summer but hasn't signed, and Kenney Solomon, who announced his pledge Wednesday.

"When you look at this class, I think we signed guys that are used to having success," Pruitt said. "Some big men. Guys that are good with the ball in their hand. I think they are going to add depth of our team and create competition. I think it capped off a class that, if you look at it starting back in December, guys that are really good students with good characters and are used to winning. Leaders of their football teams. Captains of their football teams.

"I think it is a great class to lay the foundation for what we want to achieve here."

Here are signee bios not previously published by the Times Free Press, with height, weight, hometown and previous school (in parentheses):

ATH Quavaris Crouch

6-2, 230, Charlotte, N.C. (Harding University HS): The top-ranked recruit in North Carolina and the second-ranked athlete in the country, Crouch is expected to play linebacker for the Volunteers. He initially wasn't expected to announce his decision until last month, but he signed with Tennessee in December and enrolled in January. He was injured most of 2018, but as a junior in 2017, he rushed for 3,246 yards and 33 touchdowns while racking up 48 tackles and 14 sacks.

DB DeAngelo Gibbs

6-1, 205, Loganville, Ga. (Georgia): Once rated a five-star prospect, Gibbs spent the past two seasons with the Georgia Bulldogs before transferring. He could play on either side of the ball, but he was a safety for Georgia, appearing in 13 games with 10 tackles during his time there. He's expected to be eligible in 2020 with two seasons of eligibility remaining.

RB Eric Gray

5-10, 195, Memphis (Lausanne): A consensus four-star prospect who is rated the fifth-best player in Tennessee and the fourth-best running back/all-purpose back in the country, he signed after the Vols announced their December signees. He was a three-time Tennessee Mr. Football winner, was twice named the state's Gatorade player of the year and set the state record for career touchdowns with 138.

DL Aubrey Solomon

6-3, 297, Leesburg, Ga. (Michigan): Once a consensus top-five defensive tackle in the 2017 class, he spent two years at Michigan, where he appeared in 18 games and recorded 24 tackles, including two for loss. Most of that production came in 2017, when he had 18 tackles (two for loss) while appearing in all 13 games. As a transfer, he is expected to have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2020.

LB Henry To'oto'o

6-2, 230, Pittsburg, Calif. (De La Salle): The consensus four-star prospect was the last Vols signee to submit his paperwork on Wednesday, and he added an important piece to coach Jeremy Pruitt's puzzle. To'oto'o, who picked the Vols over Alabama and Washington, was a first-team MaxPreps All-American who led his school to a 12-1 record and the state title game as a senior.

OL Darnell Wright

6-6, 320, Huntington, W.Va. (Huntington): A consensus five-star prospect, he didn't sign until Wednesday but had long been considered to lean toward the Vols. His addition gave Tennessee five offensive linemen in this class, with Wright and early enrollee Wanya Morris both five-star recruits. He chose the Vols over offers from 22 other programs, including West Virginia, which made a late push.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT