What you need to know about Tennessee's 2020 recruiting class
Admit it, Tennessee fans. When the Vols were 1-4, you believed that the only thing you could be looking forward to was the Class of 2020. But then UT went on an unexpected run, winning 6 of their last 7, and will play in the postseason for the first time since 2016.
And while the coaching staff is excited about their Gator Bowl date with Indiana, they’ve got to put the finishing touches on this class as they try to move into the top half of the conference rankings.
Tennessee will be losing key leaders and playmakers in seniors like wide receiver Jauan Jennings and linebacker Daniel Bituli. Some of the new kids on campus will need to give the Vols some much-needed depth heading into a 2020 season that will have higher expectations for this program.
Here’s what you need to know about Tennessee’s 2020 recruiting class as we race toward the Early Signing Period (Dec. 18-20).
- National rank: 19
- SEC rank: 8
- 5-stars: 0
- 4-stars: 9
- 3-stars: 8
Best player: 4-star safety Keshawn Lawrence
He has been committed to Tennessee since June, turning down offers from LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma, among others. He was selected to play in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 4, as well as the Polynesian Bowl All-Star Game on Jan. 18 in Honolulu.
Lawrence played at Ensworth in Nashville, and was a key get for Jeremy Pruitt. With high school football improving every year in Tennessee, out of state schools are poaching talent at an increasing rate. Lawrence is the No. 2-ranked prospect in the state. He already has good size (listed at 6-1, 197) and runs a sub 4.6 40. He could move to linebacker at Tennessee.
Assessing the QB: 4-star Harrison Bailey
The 6-4, 224-pounder from Marietta (Ga.) is ranked as the 4th best pro-style quarterback in this class. Like Lawrence, he was picked for the All-American Bowl. He’s a pocket passer with a cannon arm.
Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano showed improvement over the second half of the season and says he will return for his redshirt senior season. If that’s the case, the Vols could redshirt Bailey in 2020 as they’d have sophomore Brian Maurer and redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout available to back up Guarantano. Should Maurer or Shrout transfer, Bailey could find his way onto the field this fall.
Biggest need filled: Secondary
While the Vols won’t graduate many in the secondary, they will be saying goodbye to Nigel Warrior. His career was up and down, but over the second half of his senior season, he turned into the player most observers expected him to be when he arrived as a 5-star in the 2016 class. Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor will be back for their junior years, but overall the defensive back group could use some help.
This is one reason Lawrence is so important to this class. He could play significant minutes in Warrior’s spot in 2020. Besides Lawrence, the Vols will also bring in 2 4-star cornerbacks in Mordecai McDaniel from Washington D.C., and JUCO transfer Art Green. McDaniel in particular, who chose the Vols over Florida and Notre Dame, is a physical DB that plays large than his 195-pound listing. Those 3 defensive backs are among the top 8 commitments for Tennessee in this class.
Biggest needs that need to be filled: WR
Tennessee will say goodbye to receivers Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway, who combined for 86 catches, 1558 yards receiving and 14 receiving touchdowns this season. Tyler Byrd was mostly underutilized during his time at Tennessee, but he got a lot of snaps this season and will also be graduating. The Vols top returning pass-catcher will be Josh Palmer, who caught 28 passes this year and will be a senior in 2020.
In this class, there is only 1 player listed as a wide receiver, 3-star Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt ran a blistering 4.31 40 at The Opening Regional last spring. That speed could potentially help the Vols spread the field, but he needs to bulk up. He is listed as 6-0, 172 pounds.
Jimmy Calloway, a 4-star athlete, played just about everywhere for Morrow (Ga.) High, including receiver, quarterback and defensive back. There’s a good chance he finds his way into the wide receiver room.
Pruitt might still try to get at least one more receiver in this class.
Best position group: Linebackers
The Vols run a 3-4 defense, and they need more linebackers to fill out the depth chart. With this class, they’ve done just yet with 3 linebackers. The best part, aside from their talent, is that Pruitt picked them all up from the same high school, right in the University of Memphis’ backyard.
Martavius French (4-star ILB), Bryson Eason (4-star ILB) and Tamarion McDonald (3-star OLB) each played at Whitehaven in Memphis. Those 3 all had Memphis offers as well. With Bituli and OLB Darrell Taylor each finishing their eligibility, the Whitehaven 3 might see the field right away.
Best player still chasing: 5-star tight end Darnell Washington
With Dominick Wood-Anderson about to leave the Vols, the starting tight end spot is up for grabs. Tennessee will return redshirt senior Austin Pope, but that position has more questions than answers. This is why they are making a late push for Washington, the nation’s top-ranked tight end and No. 10 overall prospect.
At 6-7 and 261 pounds, Washington has the size to hold his own in the SEC right away. With Anderson’s departure, Washington might be able to crack the starting lineup as a true freshman.
While Georgia is the favorite to obtain the Las Vegas native, the Vols did secure his final official visit later this month, and shortly before the early signing period gets underway on Dec. 18th.