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Impact Analysis: Darnell Wright

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Nick Lucero/Rivals.com

Tennessee officially landed its white whale Wednesday, inking 5-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright.

The Huntington High (W.Va.) standout has been a Vol lean for months, rebuffing advances from Georgia, Alabama and others, and outright declining interest from Clemson and Ohio State. Wright chose not to sign with Tennessee in December, but the nation’s No. 16 overall prospect took an unofficial visit to Knoxville just before the Early Signing Period. He did give Neal Brown’s new West Virginia staff a look last month, but Wright never seriously entertained the Mountaineers.

The 5-star Under Armour All-American becomes the highest-rated signee at Tennessee since Pruitt took over the program.

Here’s a breakdown of what Wright’s addition means for the Vols…

WRIGHT’S SCOUTING REPORT

“He’s very athletic No. 1, especially for such a kid that’s 6-6, 315 pounds. He’s far ahead of the game as far as pass protection goes. He’s really coachable. He understands the game of football but continues to get better each week. He’s a kid who just wants to play football. He’s got a lot of God-given ability. … He’s got very good feet. He’s very long as well. He can keep speed rushers at bay with this length."

— Billy Seals, Huntington High head coach

HOW DOES WRIGHT FIT WITH THE VOLS?

Wright has hopes of playing left tackle in college, but in all likelihood, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman will get an initial look at right tackle upon arriving this summer since tag-team partner Wanya Morris will have already been for more than five months.

During the Under Armour All-American practices, Wright worked at guard extensively, showcasing his natural power against interior lineman. Like Trey Smith, Wright probably would be best-suited starting his career inside, but Tennessee simply won’t have that luxury in 2019.

Wright must lose some bad weight and continue to hone his fundamentals, but he’s a freakish talent with immense upside and will compete for immediate playing time in the fall.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TENNESSEE?

Jeremy Pruitt wanted to rebuild Tennessee’s trenches, and the Vols certainly addressed those needs along the offensive line in 2019. With Wright in the fold, Tennessee arguably signed the best OL class in the country this cycle: Wright, 4-star Wanya Morris, 4-star Chris Akporoghene, 4-star Jackson Lampley and 3-star Melvin McBride.

Pruitt also signed his first 5-star prospect since coming to Tennessee.

Overall, the Vols finished with a Top 15 class in Pruitt’s second recruiting cycle. That’s solid, but that still ranks seventh in the SEC. While Wright’s addition was critical (and long expected), Tennessee must find itself back inside the Top 10 in recruiting ranks next cycle to expedite the turnaround.

The Vols should have that opportunity, too, as they already have a blue-chip quarterback on board (4-star Harrison Bailey) and have a strong collection of in-state 2020 prospects to target.