Impact Report: 2020 Safety Mordecai McDaniel

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    (Photo via @HunnitBandCai on Twitter)

    Every time Tennessee gets a commitment in either football or men’s basketball, we will write up an impact report looking at what that recruit does well, what we feel he needs to improve in his game, and what his projected impact with the Vols could be over the next few years.

    Latest Commit: Mordecai McDaniel, S
    Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 195 pounds
    School: St. John’s College High School (Washington D.C.)
    Home Town: Washington D.C.

    Rankings
    247Sports Composite: 
    No. 410 overall, No. 33 S
    247Sports: No. 385 overall, No. 32 S
    Rivals: 5.7 rating, No. 28 S

    Notable Offers: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Penn State

    What we like:

    Yes, Mordecai McDaniel has elite track speed, but he’s more than just a quick athlete with straight line speed. McDaniel possesses really good awareness on the field, and he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands on special teams or if he intercepts a pass and has room for a return. McDaniel is a major weapon in the return game and is a big difference maker there. On defense, he shows a lot of promise as a blitzer and explodes into the backfield when he’s sent after the quarterback or is entrusted to disrupt a run play. He plays so well off the edge that I almost wonder if he ends up bulking up a bit and playing linebacker, but I think his speed and overall play style is better suited in the secondary regardless. He can lay the lumber on some of his hits, and that’s another reason he’s such an effective weapon on special teams. McDaniel is a superb returner, and he’s just as good in return coverage when it comes to minimizing big plays by opponents or when it comes to blocking kicks and punts.

    Places to improve: 

    McDaniel is still a little raw as a defender, at least based off his junior year film. He’s a special teams force, and he definitely has a role as a run stopper and blitzer, but his coverage skills are an area he can improve on. McDaniel is likely more of the hard-hitting run-stopping safety right now rather than a more all-around safety, but he has the IQ and discipline to learn the other aspects of the game that aren’t his strengths right now. His hips are a little stiff, but that can also be fixed. His vision, awareness, and speed should help him early and aid him in overcoming mistakes. The areas he needs to show improvement aren’t glaring, and UT’s defensive backs coaches are the perfect teachers for him.

    Analysis:

    I hesitate to say McDaniel is a bit of a “project” because that has a negative connotation to it. If he’s a “project,” then he’s a project with an extremely high ceiling who could still very likely contribute as a freshman. With the way the Vols’ secondary is shaping up for 2020, though, I don’t know that McDaniel will be asked to contribute a ton in his first year at UT. And that’s a good thing. Tennessee shouldn’t always have to ask freshmen to come in and play right away unless they’re ready. McDaniel should be able to make a big impact on special teams early even if he has more defensively to learn. Even still, I think he has a strong foundation on the defensive side of the ball.