One of Tennessee’s top targets on the recruiting trail announced his three finalists late Monday night, and the Vols made the cut. One of their biggest rivals didn’t, however.
Darnell Washington, the No. 1 athlete in the 2020 class out of Las Vegas, posted his three top teams moving forward in his recruitment to his Instagram on Monday night. The Vols were joined by Georgia and Miami as Washington’s finalists. Alabama, a team long considered one of the favorites for Washington, was not included, nor was LSU.
View this post on Instagram
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Washington is the No. 12 overall player and No. 1 athlete in the 2020 class. He’s also the No. 1 player in the state of Nevada.
Washington, who measures in at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds and plays for Desert Pines in Las Vegas, 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. Washington is planning on taking an official visit to see the Vols during the 2019 season.
Despite not listing Alabama as one of his finalists, Washington still has an official visit planned to see the Tide next month. He was supposed to take an official visit to LSU, too.
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 Greg Biggins of 247Sports back in July. “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.”
Washington has a lot of position versatility, playing 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. He participated in The Opening Finals, too.
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.
Stats are hard to come by from Washington’s junior year, but he averaged over 13 yards a reception and caught two touchdown passes on offense last season according to the Las Vegas Sun.
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 told Biggins. “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 currently have 15 prospects committed to them in their 2020 class, but none are from projected tight ends.
As of right now, it appears Georgia is the favorite for Washington, but most believe the Vols are right behind the Bulldogs. Washington is being recruited almost exclusively as a tight end at the next level, and this upcoming season could be huge for both UGA and UT in terms of showing Washington how they use TEs in their offenses. The Vols are recruiting five-star Arik Gilbert as a wide receiver, so that shouldn’t dissuade Washington from coming to Tennessee if it comes to that.