By Mark Nagi
The Class of 2020 will not go down as the top recruiting class in Tennessee history. But the 23 student-athletes that have signed with the Vols will go a long way towards filling some gaping holes on this team. At last look, the Vols class had jumped up to 10th in the nation and 7th in the SEC by 247 Sports. An impressive haul for Pruitt’s second full recruiting class.
While most signees were secured during the early signing period in December, the Vols did make some noise on National Signing Day itself. In the morning of Wednesday, February 5th, 4-star athlete Dee Beckwith picked Tennessee over Florida. Beckwith is extremely versatile, and the Vols could play him at several positions on offense. In the afternoon, 4-star wide receiver Malachi Wideman flipped from Florida State to the Vols. Wideman will get every opportunity to play immediately in that inexperienced receivers’ group.
“Dee Beckwith… is a guy that we targeted really early,” said Pruitt. “He’s one of these guys that in high school football had the ball in his hands a lot. He played wildcat quarterback, running back, wide receiver, safety and some linebacker. He’s a guy that projects to play a number of positions, but when you watch him play, where he’s the most dynamic is when the ball is in his hands. That’s what we’re going to do with him when he gets here, we’re going to give him the opportunity to put the ball in his hands. But again, he’s just a fantastic athlete.”
As for Wideman, Pruitt said, “I had the opportunity to watch him play a basketball game and you can just see the athleticism all over the basketball court. When you watch him on the football field, his catch radius, his instincts to play the position, his ability to high point the football, his toughness and the fact that he’s a very fluid athlete means that he has a very high ceiling and we’re really excited to have him as a part of our program.”
Considering the uneven situation at quarterback on the Vols roster, getting their signal caller of the future was key. Tennessee believes they have him with Marietta, Georgia standout Harrison Bailey. He was an early enrollee after arriving in Knoxville last month. The Vols would prefer to redshirt Bailey, but it’s possible that he sees the field this Fall.
The Vols did a very good job of keeping in-state talent at home. They bring in ten players from Tennessee in this class. Six of the top ten players in the state, according to 247Sports rankings, picked UT. That list included two players from Knoxville Catholic High School. 4-star offensive lineman Cooper Mays and 4-star defensive end Tyler Baron. There is also the top ranked prospect in the state, safety Keshawn Lawrence from Nashville and the second ranked prospect in Tennessee, defensive tackle Omari Thomas from Memphis.
The Vols went out west for linebacker help. Specifically, Whitehaven High School in Memphis. Three players, each of them linebackers, will help fill the room. Bryson Eason and Martavius French will play inside while Tamarion McDonald will start outside.
With the departure of wide receivers Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings from the 2019 Vols, they needed pass catching help desperately. 4-stars Jalin Hyatt (Irmo, South Carolina) and Jimmy Calloway (Morrow, Georgia) have the potential to make a difference in the passing game. 3-star athlete Jimmy Holiday, like Hyatt, runs a sub 4.4 40. Tennessee’s coaches need to find a way to use that speed on offense and probably special teams as well.
This is a solid class, and one that puts Tennessee in good position for years to come.