This coming weekend, the first out of the dead period and before the February 2020 signing day, will feature a handful of 2020 official visitors as well as a slew of 2021 prospects. Thematically, regardless of class what is clear is that this is the Weekend of the Wide Receiver in Knoxville.
In the 2020 class, the Vols be bringing in WR/TE Dee Beckwith and FSU WR commitment Malachi Wideman. Beckwith is an interesting prospect in that he’s likely a college TE, but in the pass-catching mold of Florida’s Kyle Pitts with inline blocking something he’ll need to grow into. Florida is, perhaps not coincidentally, his stated leader and according to him is recruiting him harder than anyone. The Vols will have their chance to make a final on-campus pitch this weekend and will seemingly need to decide whether they go all-in, as they clearly have ground to make up. His half-brother Camryn Beckwith (a RB) is an incoming preferred walk-on for the Vols, which should help but apparently isn’t the end-all be-all. Wideman is an athletic freak, who at 6’4 and 180 pounds also happens to be a high level basketball player known for his prolific and viral-video producing dunks. Tee Martin and Chris Weinke have worked hard to get Wideman to campus, and because Wideman has already taken his OV to Tallahassee he’s more wide open than his “commitment” might suggest. He does have an OV scheduled to Oregon for the weekend after, as well as one to FAU (where former FSU coach Willie Taggart landed), so the Vols are unlikely to lock him down this weekend. However, they can put themselves firmly in the mix, if not at the top, with a strong visit. Going out on a bit of a limb here, but should the Vols land Wideman he looks to be the best incoming Tennessee WR prospect since current NFL rookie Preston Williams. That kind of athleticism, size, and catch radius is rare, and were Pruitt and Martin able to add him to the current WR signees Jalin Hyatt and Jimmy Calloway, that would not only restock the WR corps for both the near term and the future but would also represent arguably the best group of WR signees in multiple years. If they do that could impact numbers at the position for 2021. Speaking of numbers, OL Dylan Spencer, a Southern Mississippi commitment, is also officially visiting this weekend; however, with the addition of Cade Mays to go with the three incoming freshmen signees it’s far from certain that Tennessee will have room for another OL in the class. That said, should things go the wrong way with the small group of targets left on the board at positions of greater need, Spencer would be an intriguing add. Playing his first year at OL after spending the rest of his high school career on the DL, Spencer earned first team all state honors in Mississippi as well as a spot on the AL/MS All-Star Game, where he earned acclaim for his play during the week of practice. He’s very potentially an OT, which makes him all the more valuable. He’s gotten very recent offers from Mississippi State and Missouri, and one would presume the Bulldogs in particular have a great shot. But he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.
Speaking of 2021, Tennessee will also have, as of this writing, seven(!) 2021 WR prospects on campus. Among them are 4-star instate stud Walker Merrill; 4-star Florida native Romello Brinson; as well as South Carolina natives Ahmari Huggins-Bruce (who recently participated in the All-American Bowl Combine) and JJ Jones; Alabamians Malachi Bennett (in Knoxville for at least his fourth visit, most recently the UAB game) and Christian Lewis; and Chauncey Magwood from Georgia. Along with instate WRs Adonai Mitchell, Quenton Barnes, and Scottie Alexander; 4-stars Kobe Paysour (for whom the Vols just made a Top 7), Gavin Blackwell (visited for the South Carolina game), Isaiah Brevard and James Blackstrain, this group makes up Tennessee’s early WR board for 2021.
Not to get lost in the WR shuffle, there will be other notable 2021s on campus, most importantly 5-star LB Dylan Brooks, 4-star QB Christian Veilleux, and bigtime DL Isaac Washington. Brooks’ recruitment will be an all-out war between the Vols and instate powers Alabama and Auburn, but he attended three games in Knoxville this past season and has been on campus a handful of other times as well, so Tennessee is clearly in deep with this elite player. Veilleux is making his 3rd visit since last summer, including the Mississippi State game, this time as part of a campus tour that will also take him to Duke and Clemson, which indicates what kind of prospect he is (PSU is also a big factor here). Washington will also be making his third visit and appears to be very high on the Vols at the moment, good news considering how big a need DL is in 2021. Other scheduled visitors include recently offered DL Tyrion Ingram and LB Raneiria Dillworth. Getting these kinds of prospects on campus is a great sign for the kind of momentum Tennessee has on the recruiting trail. Continuing to get these players as well as other top targets on campus in January and February, before the cycle truly gets started, will be of paramount importance for Coach Pruitt and his staff.