Vols Widely Regarded as “Winners” of National Signing Day

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    Tennessee brought in a strong haul of signees for the 2020 class back in December during the early signing period, and they capped that off with two big additions on National Signing Day on Wednesday. The Vols picked up a commitment from four-star athlete Dee Beckwith, as he chose UT over the rival Florida Gators, and four-star wide receiver Malachi Wideman flipped his commitment from Florida State to the Vols.

    With those two big signees, Tennessee finished with a consensus top-10 class in the 2020 cycle on both 247Sports and Rivals. And pretty much every major publication that follows college football views the Vols as a “winner” for National Signing Day.

    The Vols were listed as “winners” on National Signing Day by at least four major media outlets following their two big additions to go along with their early signing class. The national media was very heavy on the praise for Jeremy Pruitt’s second full class as Tennessee’s head coach.

    Over on Athlon Sports, Tennessee was lauded as one of the most dramatic climbers on National Signing Day.

    “No program moved up the rankings as dramatically, and meaningfully, as Tennessee,” Athlon wrote. “The Volunteers were hanging in at No. 20 before the early signing period and end Wednesday with a top-10 class. With 23 total commitments, the staff was able to sign 13 four-star prospects. A lot of attention was given to the box on defense with nine signed. Getting four-star QB Harrison Bailey on campus for the spring semester is an added bonus.”

    On 247Sports, 13 of Tennessee’s 23 signees are rated as four-stars, and 16 of UT’s 23 signees are rated inside the top 600 prospects in the 2020 cycle. On Rivals, quarterback Harrison Bailey is a five-star, and 13 of the Vols’ other 22 signees are four-stars.

    John Garcia Jr., the Director of Recruiting for Sports Illustrated, was particularly enamored with the Vols’ additions of both Dee Beckwith and Malachi Wideman. Garcia praises Wideman as a huge flip from Florida State, and he commends Tennessee for holding off a late push from Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss, too.

    “How about the day for Jeremy Pruitt and his staff?” Garcia wrote. “Assembling big, athletic pass catchers is always important in today’s offense-first nature of football and the Vols picked up two so talented they’re legit expected to play basketball in college. Malachi Wideman is a bonafide hooper but he may have a higher ceiling as a jump ball and 50-50 specialist on the field. Flipping him from Florida State, especially as Ole Miss had a lot of buzz in getting his final official visit, was huge. Dee Beckwith, who was linked to Florida more than Tennessee until the final stretch, was another head-turning addition. UT finished just outside the top 10 in the SIAA rankings.”

    Barton Simmons, the Director of Scouting for 247Sports and a writer for CBS Sports, thinks Tennessee’s overall 2020 class is a solid one, and he believes the Vols’ two additions on National Signing Day sent UT’s class over the edge.

    “Tennessee started the day at No. 14 and dipped to No. 15 at one point. It finished the day at No. 10,” Simmons wrote. “A ‘top 10′ class has a nice ring to it, particularly when it’s buoyed by really strong evaluations, a talented quarterback in Harrison Bailey, speed on the perimeter and power in the trenches. Signing day was punctuated by the Vols stealing talented wide receiver Malachi Wideman from Florida State as well as a commitment from Damarcus Beckwith. Fittingly, Tennessee was the first program to offer Beckwith over a year ago.”

    For the Vols, the 2020 class is UT’s highest-rated class since the 2015 class that finished ranked No. 4 overall on 247Sports. It’s the first time since that 2015 cycle that Tennessee has signed a top 10 recruiting class.

    Though a top 10 class looks good nationally, the Vols recruit in the SEC, which means a top 10 class is sometimes just middle-of-the-road in the conference.

    On 247Sports, Tennessee’s 2020 class is just seventh in the SEC. On Rivals, the Vols’ class ranks fifth in the conference. The competition is tough both on the field and on the recruiting trail in the SEC, and that’s exemplified by this year’s recruiting rankings.

    Despite that, the Vols still made up some ground on their conference rivals, and Paul Myerberg of USA Today Sports believes UT is inching closer to the top teams in the SEC thanks to their 2020 class.

    “Tennessee pulled off one of the day’s biggest flips in drawing four-star wide receiver Malachi Wideman away from Florida State,” Myerberg wrote. “Adding Wideman and three-star athlete Damarcus Beckwith moved the Volunteers firmly into the crowded group of SEC teams hovering just behind the established top five, alongside or just a hair behind Texas A&M, Florida and Auburn.”

    Only time will tell if Tennessee’s recruiting rankings pan out on the field, but on paper, the Vols’ 2020 class appears to be a success. With five-star quarterback Harrison Bailey and a host of four-star supporting players, UT has upped the amount of talent on the roster for the upcoming season.

    Tennessee may not be done yet, either. There’s still the possibility that UT could add five-star running back Zach Evans to their class at some point, too.

    Even if Evans doesn’t end up in Tennessee’s class, the 2020 class is a strong one for the Vols, especially considering how UT’s 2019 season started.