Tennessee true freshman Dee Beckwith could play just about any position on the offensive side of the ball.
The Florence, Alabama native played quarterback for his Florence High School football team. Beckwith also starred at running back and wide receiver as he totaled 1,055 rushing yards, 589 passing yards and 526 receiving yards to go along with 27 total touchdowns as a senior. His performance earned him first team all-state honors.
When Beckwith signed with the Vols this past recruiting cycle, Jeremy Pruitt and his coaching staff envisioned him as a wide receiver and tight end within the offense. That’s where he began his career in fall camp, but he quickly transitioned to running back in the middle of fall camp.
Beckwith has remained at running back throughout the season after overcoming an ankle injury he suffered during camp. That’s the spot Pruitt envisions Beckwith remaining moving forward.
“I like him at running back,” Pruitt told reporters on Monday when asked about Beckwith. “When we recruited him, we didn’t know exactly where we’d play him, we just knew we wanted him on our team. This guy has a lot of versatility. We started him off at wide receiver, but when he got here, he was a lot bigger than he was when we signed him.
“He’s a guy that continues to grow and develop, but he’s really good with the ball in his hands. So, putting him back there at running back and trying to create a home for him has been really good for him. I know Coach (Jay) Graham is excited about him and some of the other younger backs and so I feel like that’s where he’ll be.”
The 6-foot-5 athlete recorded his first career rushing attempts this past Saturday in garbage time of Tennessee’s 42-17 win over Vanderbilt to snap a six-game losing streak. Beckwith carried the ball twice and gained 24 yards. Each rush went for 12-yards.
Beckwith was one of several freshmen who caught Pruitt’s eyes in Saturday’s game against the Commodores.
“Omari Thomas continues to play more and more snaps each game,” Pruitt said. “Tyler Baron has played a lot throughout the season and continues to improve. Tamarion McDonald is a guy that we’ve started playing in the last couple of weeks. He didn’t have hardly any practice leading up, until about halfway through the season. I think those guys have done a really nice job. Keshawn Lawrence played a little more on Saturday. All of these guys and more have played on special teams, including Doneiko Slaughter. Morven Joseph continues to show flashes. He had a couple of quarterback pressures on Saturday.
“Offensively, Cooper (Mays) has played the last two weeks at center some. The wide receivers (have played well), whether it’s Jimmy Calloway, Jalin Hyatt or Jimmy Holiday. Jimmy Holiday couldn’t make the trip Saturday. These guys continue to improve, including Malachi Wideman. I thought on Saturday for the first time, he’s played the last two weeks on special teams, but Dee Beckwith got to touch the football. You kind of see a little bit about what kind of abilities he has. I know it’s late in the game, but still. Jabari Small is a guy that I’ve felt like all year has made people miss and done a really nice job. There’s many, many more in this signing that have potential to be really good football players.”
Pruitt’s currently focused on closing out the season strong against No. 5 Texas A&M this Saturday on Senior Day inside of Neyland Stadium. But the crop of young freshmen has him excited to get to work this offseason.
“I’m kind of excited about the offseason, when we get started on that, or maybe if we do go to a bowl game – the opportunity to work some of these guys and get back to having these extra periods, opportunity periods,” Pruitt said. “We really have a young football team. I think there are 50 freshmen and sophomores on our team. Most of them have just experienced two days of spring ball. There’s a lot of development and a lot of growth for these guys. They’re going to have an opportunity to really improve this offseason.”
Leaving Beckwith at running back would b a big plus. Running behind his pads will come with practice. Also, he is running a little to upright.
He is certainly a big body option at RB.