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Five-Star Outside Linebacker Visits Vols

(Photo via Kevin Wade/247Sports)

The No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2020 recruiting class is currently in Knoxville on an unofficial visit.

Sav’ell Smalls, a five-star pass rusher who plays for Kennedy Catholic in Burlen, Washington, tweeted out on Monday afternoon that he is in Knoxville. Smalls is expected to stay in town for a couple days and tour around Tennessee’s campus.

According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Smalls is the No. 9 overall prospect and No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2020 class. He holds offers from just about every major program in college football, including Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Miami, Michigan, LSU, Penn State, Texas, and Texas A&M.

Monday’s trip to Knoxville marks the first time Smalls has been to UT’s campus, so it’s a big deal that Jeremy Pruitt and his staff are getting him in. Smalls visited Florida State over the weekend and stayed for about three days. He swung his way up north a little to Knoxville after finishing up that trip.

Though he’s never been to Knoxville, Smalls has had plenty of contact with Tennessee’s coaches in the past.

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.

Niedermeyer isn’t the only UT coach Smalls is a fan of, though.

Smalls spoke with Sports Stars of Tomorrow earlier this summer, and in that interview he stated that that he’s a big believer in 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.”

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Smalls released a top 12 back in February that 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.

He’s expected to trim his list down to six finalists in August, and the Vols have a shot at making that cut as long as things go well on his visit to Knoxville.

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. He will play either as a stand-up outside linebacker or as a down lineman in college, or maybe a combo of both.

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.

Smalls isn’t expected to make a commitment or final announcement any time soon. As of now, he’s expecting to let his recruitment play out all the way through to National Signing Day in February.

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.

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