Impact Analysis: Vols close the deal, edge out Kentucky for Cristian Conyer

Tennessee picked up a big-time recruiting victory on Sunday, holding on for the commit of four-star cornerback Christian Conyer to the 2023 class. The Bowling Green, Ky. native is the top-player from the Bluegrass State and Kentucky made a strong, late push to try and keep the blue-chipper from leaving the state.

UT led in this recruitment from the get-go, but Mark Stoops wouldn’t go down without a fight. The Vols won out in the end and have now added a critical piece to their committed defensive class. Conyer becomes the 14th member of the Volunteers 2023 class, the ninth on the defensive side and the first cornerback of the cluster.

The South Warren standout measures in at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and is considered the 15th-best cornerback of the class with a Rivals Rating of 5.8. Conyer now joins fellow defensive back commits – all safeties – John Slaughter, Sylvester Smith and Jack Luttrell.

Here’s a detailed commitment look at what Conyer’s means for Tennessee.

SCOUTING REPORT

“Cristian Conyer is a true athlete. He can be very valuable at wide reliever, which we’ve seen him take short passes, make people miss and take it to the house. He can stretch the field and put real pressure on defensive backs with that speed and athletic ability. Or, he can flip over and play corner – knock passes away, be physical and run with any receiver in the country. You usually put your best athletes on defense. With a kid that has that athletic ability, Josh Heupel and his staff are going to find ways to get him on the field and be a contributor.”

— Adam Gorney, National Recruiting Director for Rivals

HIGHLIGHTS

HOW DOES CONYER FIT IN WITH THE VOLS?

Tennessee’s new commit is an athlete and South Warren uses him all over the field to make the most impact.

Defensively, which is where he’ll fit into the Power 5 game, he’s physical at the cornerback position. He sets the edge well with the outside run game and isn’t afraid to come downhill and aid in tackling. His back-pedal is great and he changes directions well. Conyer’s hips are fluid and he doesn’t lose a step when receivers break on their routes.

The prospect displays good eye discipline, not fixing on the quarterback in the backfield. Instead, the cornerback keeps his focus on the receiver at hand in man-coverage and shows great awareness while playing zone for other receivers who enter his territory. Conyer is good in pressing the receiver off the line of scrimmage and high-points the football when it’s in the air, winning most of the 50/50 battles.

Though he will play cornerback at Tennessee, Conyer is used as a weapon on offense at the high school level for South Warren. At receiver, they get the ball in his hands in several different ways, such as jet sweeps, screen passes and boundary attacks. He has been seen to line up in the backfield at times and shows good patience and vision when finding a hole.

Conyer runs good routes and displays great speed to get behind the defense. The prospect also has great awareness while working the sideline, knowing the cornerback will use that against him as an extra defender.

Tennessee made Conyer a priority very early in the Josh Heupel tenure because of his raw athletic ability. Those traits have only grown over time and he will end up being one of the most important pieces to this Volunteer signing class.

WHAT DOES CONYER’S COMMITMENT MEAN FOR TENNESSEE?

It’s big in several areas. One, Conyer has long been a priority target for the Volunteers with Tennessee sitting in the driver’s seat for most of his recruitment. Being able to close the deal over the home state Wildcats is big, seeing as he’s a Bowling Green native with Kentucky swinging until the final hours.

Conyer’s commitment also means Tennessee has its first cornerback in the class. The Volunteers have already brought in three safeties, but have been behind on the outside. Conyer’s pledge eases that concern and will add another body to the position room that could see Warren Burrell, Kamal Hadden and Brandon Turnage leave the program after the 2022 season.

With the commitment of Conyer, Tennessee still has work to do at the cornerback position for the 2023 class. Jakeem Jackson and Jordan Matthews are next up on the board for the Big Orange at the spot while Rickey Gibson is also a player the coaching staff is recruiting.

All three of those prospects took official visits to Tennessee in recent weeks and could be nearing decisions before the summer months concluded.

Willie Martinez’s growing relationship with Conyer in recent months is one reason Rocky Top won this battle, but it was an all-hands-on-deck approach with Tim Banks and Josh Heupel also lending their services and attention to the cause.

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