On the surface, Wednesday’s decision by 4-star wide receiver Ramel Keyton to pick Tennessee over Auburn, Florida and others is big-time news. The nation’s No. 188-ranked overall player and the No. 31 receiver in the class, per the 247Sports composite rankings, is always going to be a nice addition to your haul.
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Dig below the surface, however, and the 6’3″, 186-pound pass-catcher’s pledge is even more vital to the Vols’ success in the 2019 class and perhaps even further.
Not only does this signify that coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff is going to have a resounding presence in the Peach State [Georgia can’t keep all those studs, after all] but it also paves end-roads into one of the richest talent beds for the next two classes.
It’s essentially just as big of a get from the relationships standpoint as 5-star offensive lineman Wanya Morris, who hails from Grayson High School, which produces a slew of playmakers each year. Though Owen Pappoe committed to Auburn on that same day, the Vols are still going to try to flip him to Rocky Top.
Keyton is a gateway to another talent-rich school: Marietta High.
His pledge marks the seventh known UT commit in this class, and now four of those hail from Georgia [tight ends Sean Brown and Jackson Lowe as well as Morris]. The Vols are going after several more studs in a state that led the nation in NFL draft natives this year with 29 players selected hailing from the fertile grounds of Georgia, according to Rivals.com’s Chad Simmons.
They aren’t just gearing up for this class, either. The Vols are already hot and heavy after 2020 quarterback Harrison Bailey, who really likes UT at this early juncture. He may be the top target on the board at the all-important position, and having Keyton can’t hurt. Stud tight end Arik Gilbert, safety Rashad Torrence and defensive end B.J. Ojulari are on that team too.
Tennessee wants all those kids, and Keyton can help recruit them — this year and when he’s on campus in the future.
As for Keyton, the prospect, he’s an excellent prospect in his own rights. He’s big and physical, and though nobody will mistake him for being the fastest kid on the field, he plays faster than he runs in camp settings. He’s big enough at 6’3″ to go up and get balls against smaller corners, and he runs good enough routes to get open over the middle and provide mismatches. Because he’s never going to be a burner, it wouldn’t hurt him to add 20 or more pounds to his frame.
Though he probably doesn’t have quite as high of a ceiling as A.J. Brown, he’s not dissimilar in stature or skill set. Everybody always wants to say, “He’s like Dez Bryant,” with big-bodied receivers, and obviously, that’s best-case scenario, but the bottom line is Keyton fills a big role in this offense. He’s exactly the kind of player UT needs on its roster. If you want a fair comparison at this point, Tennessee leading receiver Brandon Johnson wouldn’t be a bad comp.
Keyton can be a dynamic player for the Vols if he comes in, works hard, improves and continues to listen and develop his skill set. He also can be the kind of vocal presence around the Atlanta area that UT needs, a guy who can trumpet what Pruitt and Co. are selling perhaps better than Morris, who seems to be a quiet, lunch-pail kid.
Keyton told the media on Wednesday that Tennessee was “going to win a championship” while he’s in school. That seems like a long way away, but getting the caliber player with the skills and connections he has is a great start.
247Sports director of recruiting Barton Simmons told GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan he believes Keyton could be an “elite” player who could come in and make an instant impact. That’s high praise from a guy who’s proved he knows recruiting.
This is a big win on the recruiting trail.