With a lot of news to digest, from the transfer of skill players RB/WR Miles Jones and WR Velus Jones as well as OL Cade Mays, to the decision of All-American OL Trey Smith, a few thoughts below on how that might affect Tennessee’s approach to the February signing period:
With those transfers, Tennessee has now added 23 players in the 2020 class, leaving two spots before any monkeying with the numbers. It’s not breaking news to say that DL Jay Hardy and ATH Dee Beckwith have those spots locked up should they want them and that whoever else might want in will be dependent on said numbers machinations.
A quick thought on Beckwith: Although this writer has been a bit critical of his apparent love for basketball, perhaps to the detriment of his future in football, that opinion has changed somewhat as his focus seems to have narrowed back to football. Further, and more importantly, watching how Florida (his other finalist) featured a *very* similar player in TE Kyle Pitts as almost the focal point of its offense, his value as a prospect has increased. Were Tennessee to land Beckwith (who visits Tennessee January 31st after tripping to UK and UF) and develop him into a player like Pitts, that would be massive for an offense that continues to evolve with multiple different kinds of players, from big-bodied WRs like Josh Palmer to speed demons like Jalin Hyatt to more Swiss Army types like Jimmy Calloway, Jimmy Holiday, and the aforementioned Mr. Jones’s.
To the degree that Tennessee was searching for another OL in this class, one would think that the addition of Mays ends that search. 5-star UGA commitment Broderick Jones had planned to officially visit Knoxville next weekend – the first one after the dead period ends – but that appears to be off. Whether that was a decision made by Jones or by Tennessee (likely sensing that the chances of stealing Jones were low) is unknown and meaningless. But with the strong likelihood that former commitment Kyree Miller ends up elsewhere (100% a Tennessee decision) and the Vols also having cancelled a previously planned OV for Jalen St John, it appears that Tennessee has closed the door on adding another OL in the 2020 class. And considering the Vols signed a trio of really nice OL prospects in Cooper Mays, James Robinson, and Javontez Spraggins and then added Cade Mays, that’s smart roster management
In contrast, despite adding two bigtime WR prospects last month in Hyatt and Calloway to go with the two transfers, Tennessee is still in the market for another WR. But while many thought that would be Rock Hill, SC native Ger-Cari Caldwell, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of traction on either/both sides there. Instead, news broke on Friday that Tennessee will instead be hosting 4-star FSU commitment Malachi Wideman next weekend before Wideman trips to Oregon and then Florida Atlantic for his final two visits. With Wideman having already taken his OV to FSU (as well as Washington State), the Vols could be in a strong position for the SI All-American and 247 Sports Top 140 prospect. Wideman is a freak athlete whose strength on the gridiron comes from his elite size/athleticism combo, and his upside lies in the fact that he’s still raw when it comes to the technical aspects of the position. He also happens to be a high level basketball player, so should the Vols seek to enlist Rick Barnes (ala the Dee Beckwith recruitment) that could be a feather in their cap here. He’s the kind of prospect you make room for, period. So it will be very interesting to see how this one shakes out.
Another potential transfer name to keep an eye on is former UGA LB/S Otis Reese. Reese, who signed with the Bulldogs in the class of 2018 as a Top 100 prospect, entered the transfer portal last week. He was recruited heavily by both Coach Jeremy Pruitt and DC Derrick Ansley when both were at Alabama, and also notably he hails from the same South Georgia high school (Lee Co.) as current Vol DL Aubrey Solomon. Reese is a bit of a tweener, but was running with the 1’s for UGA last spring before contracting mono which set him back heavily. Once that happened he was passed by in the depth chart by former 5-star Lewis Cine and that was that. Regardless, he’s an elite athlete with a reputation as a bigtime hitter – the kind of talent even a heavily upgraded Tennessee roster could use. There hasn’t been much said publicly about Reese’s future plans, but one would think the Vols will be a major player should they choose to be