Vols Among Finalists for Elite Four-Star Defensive End

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    (Photo via Rusty Mansell/247Sports)

    RTI recruiting contributor Landon Steffy contributed to this article 

    With spring football in the rearview mirror, Tennessee’s coaching staff will settle down and focus on recruiting now. Tennessee has some serious momentum with some of the top players in the 2020 recruiting class, and an elite defensive end out of Georgia has the Vols as one of his finalists.

    Per his Twitter account, Tennessee has made the top five for composite four-star and top-100 overall defensive end Zykeivous Walker. Along with Tennessee, Walker has included four other SEC schools in Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Georgia.

    The 6-foot-4, 260-pound athlete is from Ellaville, Georgia and attends Schley County High School. He is ranked by the 247Sports Composite rankings as the No. 98 player in the country and the No. 11 recruit in the state of Georgia for 2020. He’s also the No. 5 strong-side defensive end in the 2020 class.

    Georgia seems to be the early favorite for Walker, but as Jeremy Pruitt and this staff have proven in their short time in Knoxville, they’re willing to go toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs for in-state players. In the 2019 class alone, the Vols signed nine players from the state of Georgia, and UT already has commitments from three Georgia prospects in their 2020 class.

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    Walker has taken an unofficial visit to Tennessee once already, coming up to Knoxville to watch the Vols’ match-up with Missouri last season. He took an unofficial visit to Alabama in February and unofficially visited Georgia twice during the 2018 season.

    Upon on watching film, Walker shows off incredible strength and easily gets through the line in both passing and running situations. His run stopping ability stands out on tape. He easily sheds his man for tackles for loss on several occasions. He makes pass rushing look easy, using his pure strength and using his powerful bull rush to overpower his opponent, sometimes shedding a double team and making the tackle. His frame looks like he could add weight and play inside at defensive tackle even. He has the strength to pull that off, too. He will likely have to work on his speed at the next level if he plans to play linebacker, though.

    As a junior for Schley County, Walker tallied 60 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. For his standout junior season, Walker landed the Region 4-A Player of the Year award and was voted First-Team All-State.

    Georgia will make this a difficult battle, as will the other teams in Walker’s list of finalists. But Tennessee won’t back down easily, and expect UT to try and get him on campus a couple times this year.