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Vols to Get Official Visit from No. 1 Athlete in 2020 Class

(Photo via Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

In the 2019 recruiting cycle, Tennessee got a signature from Quavaris Crouch, the one-time No. 1 overall athlete in the 2019 class. Now, UT’s coaching staff is again pursuing the top-rated athlete on the recruiting trail, and he plans on taking an official visit to Knoxville in the near future.

Darnell Washington is a five-star athlete/tight end who plays for Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. He’s participating in Nike’s The Opening this week, and he discussed his plans for official visits with Greg Biggins of 247Sports. According to Washington, the five schools he’s eying for his five official visits are almost all in the SEC.

“If I had to choose today, my five visits would be to Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Miami and LSU,” Washington told Biggins. “Things could change but that’s where it’s at today. I haven’t set up any dates yet but I plan to take all of those visits during the season so I can visit on a game weekend.”

According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Washington is the No. 11 overall player and No. 1 athlete in the 2020 class. He holds offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Texas, and many others.

Washington, who measures in at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, has visited Tennessee’s campus twice already. He visited campus on an unofficial trip in late June of last year, and he returned for another unofficial visit in March of this year. He’s yet to come to Knoxville for a game, though that will change this upcoming season.

Tennessee has a slight edge over every other program recruiting Washington at the moment, and that’s thanks to recruiting ace Brian Niedermeyer.

“Out of all the coaches recruiting me, I have the best relationship with coach (Brian) Niedermeyer,” Washington told Biggins. “He’s a great guy and someone I know I would enjoy playing for as a position coach. I’ve been there 2-3 times as well and just like with Georgia, I love the campus and the passion for football everyone has out there.”

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Washington has a lot of position versatility, as he plays tight end, defensive end, and specialist for Desert Pines. But he’s viewed as a tight end in college, and that’s where the majority of schools are recruiting him.

During testing at a regional camp for The Opening, Washington ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash and a 4.46-second shuttle. He recorded a 30-inch vertical leap as well.

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound athlete is a violent defender from his defensive end spot, and he takes that same physicality and applies it to his blocking on offense. Washington lines up both out wide as a wide receiver and in the more traditional tight end spot. He has great speed, especially for his size, and he possesses elite athleticism. Washington has superb awareness and uses his physical tools effectively. He has very good hands and is nearly impossible to cover at the high school level. It looks like he already knows how to run a number of routes effectively, too.

So when should fans expect to hear a decision from Washington? According to him, he doesn’t really have a time set for a commitment just yet, but playing in the SEC is a high priority for him.

“The biggest factors for me in my decision will be the scheme fit, how well I fit in the offense, the coaching staff and how comfortable I am on campus and how well I fit in,” Washington stated. “I like the SEC a lot. It’s the best conference in the country, and if you can succeed there, you can succeed anywhere, so that’s why so many of my schools are from the SEC.

“I really don’t have a timeframe for making a decision, it will be after my trips in the fall.  Then I’ll have time to evaluate everyone and can make a decision whenever it feels right.”

The Vols are in a good position with both Darnell Washington and Arik Gilbert, another five-star tight end target. But fending off both Georgia and Alabama for either of those two prospects will prove extremely difficult.

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