Impact Report: The 2020 Whitehaven Trio

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    (Photo via Terry Davis/Tri-State Defender)

    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.

    In this instance, we’re taking a look at all three Whitehaven defenders who committed to the Vols on Tuesday night in one big article.

    Latest Commit: Bryson Eason, ILB
    Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 250 pounds
    School: Whitehaven (Tennessee)
    Home Town: Memphis

    Rankings
    247Sports Composite: 
    No. 348 overall, No. 17 ILB
    247Sports: No. 638 overall, No. 25 ILB
    Rivals: 5.8 rating, No. 182 overall, No. 11 ILB

    Notable Offers: Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma

    Latest Commit: Martavius French, ILB
    Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 240 pounds
    School: Whitehaven (Tennessee)
    Home Town: Memphis

    Notable Offers: Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, Oregon

    Rankings
    247Sports Composite: 
    No. 332 overall, No. 15 ILB
    247Sports: No. 600 overall, No. 21 ILB
    Rivals: 5.8 rating, No. 180 overall, No. 10 ILB

    Latest Commit: Tamarion McDonald, OLB
    Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 220 pounds
    School: Whitehaven (Tennessee)
    Home Town: Memphis

    Rankings
    247Sports Composite: 
    No. 567 overall, No. 34 OLB
    247Sports: No. 776 overall, No. 53 OLB
    Rivals: 5.8 rating, No. 28  OLB

    Notable Offers: LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Arkansas

    What we like:

    Tennessee has a huge need at inside linebacker in the 2020 class with the way the Vols’ position has been ransacked this season, and they addressed that in a big way with Bryson Eason and Martavius French. Tamarion McDonald is listed as an outside linebacker by recruiting services, but he’ll likely end up at safety, STAR, or nickel in college. Eason and French give the Vols two big bodies at inside linebacker, and both aren’t just tanks that are stationary run cloggers; French and Eason both can move very well for their size. French has really long arms and is extremely disruptive, and Eason is probably the ideal inside linebacker from a run-stopping perspective. Both play with a nasty, mean edge to them, and both (especially Eason) are very physical. McDonald brings some more versatility, and he’s probably the best of the group in pass coverage. McDonald has great explosion off the snap and is used very effectively on blitzes.

    One thing that stands out about all three players is their football IQ. All three have a high level of awareness on the field, and all three do a good job of identifying plays and making the correct read. If they make the wrong read, all three possess enough athleticism (at least in high school) to either erase that mistake or get close to doing so. All three are also very good wrap-up tacklers.

    Places to improve: 

    In all three highlight films for all three players, the one area that’s lacking is video of pass coverage. From what I’ve seen from McDonald, he has some good foundational skills there, but I’ve still not seen a lot. I actually think French has some good ability in the flat and covering running backs and some receivers in the middle of the field, but again, I haven’t seen a lot of film of him doing so. As an inside linebacker in UT’s defensive system, Eason and French will be asked to defend the pass quite a bit. That’s an area I think all three could improve on, but it’s by no means a glaring weakness at this point.

    For McDonald, finding a true positional home will be a must. Does he add more weight to his frame and play outside linebacker? Or does he move to safety or STAR? He has some good skills for either option, but I think his highest ceiling in college might be in the secondary. But I’m not a football coach, so I’ll leave that to UT’s staff to decide.

    Analysis:

    Tennessee’s future defense undoubtedly got better on Tuesday night. The Vols’ biggest need in the 2020 class — outside of maybe the defensive line — was at inside linebacker. UT addressed that two-fold by getting commitments from Eason and French. With Daniel Bituli departing after this season, the Vols really only have one player (Henry To’o To’o) the coaches trust to play at that position. The opportunity will be right there for both Eason and French to get early playing time.

    As for McDonald, he has the potential to be a big special teams weapon on coverages and kick blocking teams in his first year. Tennessee likely won’t have the luxury of redshirting a ton of players next season, and I think McDonald is good enough and smart enough to find a role as a true freshman in 2020 in the secondary and especially on special teams.