Back in February, Tennessee wasn’t even on the radar for the No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2020 recruiting class. But now, not only are the Vols on his mind, but they’re getting a visit from him very soon.
Sav’ell Smalls is a five-star linebacker who plays for Kennedy Catholic in Burlen, Washington. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound outside linebacker spoke with Sports Stars of Tomorrow about his recruitment on Thursday. According to Smalls, he’ll be trimming down his list of top 12 schools he released in February down to just six teams “soon,” and he’s planning on taking a couple visits at the end of this month.
“At the end of the month I’ll be going to Florida State and Tennessee,” Smalls stated.
Smalls has never made a trip to Knoxville before, so his visit from Washington over to UT’s campus will be his first in his recruitment. Tennessee tight ends coach and reigning National Recruiter of the Year Brian Niedermeyer is Smalls’ main recruiter with the Vols, and he traveled to Parkland, Washington back in mid-June for the Pacific Lutheran University 11-on-11 high school football tournament and worked with Smalls there.
— Brandon Huffman (@BrandonHuffman) June 15, 2019
Niedermeyer isn’t the only UT coach Smalls likes, though.
Smalls went on to say in his interview with Sports Stars of Tomorrow that he’s a big fan of Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt because of his ability to develop outside linebackers.
“Coach Pruitt’s there, he’s the head coach, and he’s like an outside linebacker master,” Smalls said. “He knows everything about defense. He’s a defensive guru. He really develops pass rushers like no other, and that’s a big plus being the head coach.
“And Tennessee’s up and coming.”
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Smalls is the No. 4 overall player and No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2020 recruiting class. He holds offers from over 30 programs, and all the top schools in the nation want him. His top 12 back in February didn’t include the Vols, but now UT has his interest. His original top 12 was comprised of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Washington, Texas A&M, Florida, Miami, Oregon, Texas, Florida State, and Washington State.
Smalls has been invited to participate in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl and the Polynesian Bowl in the 2020 cycle.
As a high school player, Smalls does a little bit of everything. Not only is he a phenomenal defender, but he plays wide receiver, too. Smalls has exceptional awareness and physicality, and he has good speed, especially for his size. He plays both as an edge rusher with his hand in the dirt and as a stand-up linebacker. Smalls has great burst off the line and has superb instincts as a defensive player. He’s not bad in pass coverage, either.
In his junior season, Smalls had 21 tackles for loss and seven sacks on defense and totaled 33 receptions for 673 yards and seven touchdowns on offense.
The Vols don’t currently have a commitment from any linebackers in their 2020 class. Tennessee has had a lot of luck pursuing highly-rated linebackers since Jeremy Pruitt took over as head coach, though. The Vols signed the No. 3 outside linebacker in the 2019 class in Henry To’oto’o and also got the signature of the No. 3 outside linebacker in the 2018 class when they were able to get JJ Peterson to campus.