Tennessee had a strong need for a pass rusher in their 2020 class, and they were able to address that need in a big way on the first day of the early signing period.
Last Wednesday, four-star weak-side defensive end Morven Joseph chose to sign with the Vols over Florida and Florida State, spurning the in-state programs to sign with Tennessee. Joseph, who plays for Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, Florida, had been committed to both the Gators and Seminoles at two different points in his recruitment.
But in the end, Tennessee won out, and now Joseph will be wearing orange and white.
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt not only thinks Joseph can be a good pass rusher, but he also believes the incoming freshman has the ability to play multiple positions.
“Morven Joseph…is another guy that can play all four spots at linebacker,” Pruitt said about Joseph on Wednesday during his early signing period press conference. “He has unique ability to rush off the edge, could actually play inside, and will be a great special teams player.”
In high school, Joseph didn’t just rush the passer as an outside linebacker; he also played at an inside linebacker spot and played with his hand in the dirt as a down lineman to rush the passer.
All that versatility and Joseph’s pure athleticism helped him put together a stout senior year. Joseph amassed 115 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 44 quarterback hurries, a forced fumble, and two passes defended according to MaxPreps. Joseph also ran for a touchdown on offense.
At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Joseph has a long frame and long arms, but he has plenty of room to add more weight. Pruitt anticipates that he’ll do just that as soon as he gets to campus.
“He has length, range, and is probably going to grow a lot if you look at his build,” Pruitt said of Joseph. “(He) has wide shoulders, length, big arms, and big hands, so a guy that probably is going to add some weight.”
Tennessee will be losing redshirt senior outside linebacker Darrell Taylor after this season. Taylor has led the Vols in sacks in back-to-back seasons, and he has seven in his final year as a Vol currently. The Vol with the second-most sacks is Daniel Bituli with three, and Bituli will also be leaving after this season.
The Vols have a big hole to fill at that pass rushing spot, and Bituli has been Tennessee’s best run-stopper at linebacker. Pruitt and his staff identified Joseph as a need in the 2020 class for his ability to not only rush the passer, but also his ability to stop running backs. Joseph was proficient at both, and he’ll likely be asked to do both at Tennessee.
“(He’s) a guy that can play all four spots, is a play-maker,” Pruitt said. “So when it gets to third down and you’re trying to decide how you are going to play this guy, are you going to rush him off the edge, or is he going to be a guy that plays inside and playing on the better running backs in our league?”
Tennessee’s leading returner sacker for next season at linebacker will be Deandre Johnson, who has 2.5 sacks this season. Kivon Bennett also has two sacks this year. Only three other Vol linebackers have even half a sack recorded this season. Freshman Roman Harrison has one, and freshmen Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch both have half a sack each.
Joseph will have a chance to contribute early as a Vol, even if it’s just on special teams. And Jeremy Pruitt likes the potential and unique ability the four-star brings.
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Joseph is the No. 352 overall prospect and No. 18 weak-side defensive end in the 2020 cycle.