Mississippi State commit McDonald talks Vol offer, interest in Tennessee
Jeremy Pruitt’s first two recruiting classes placed an emphasis on the defensive backfield.
Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson highlighted the Class of 2018, while Tyus Fields, Jaylen McCollough and Aaron Beasley were additions this past winter. Most have seen the field already, with the former pairing linking up to man the starting cornerback spots as freshmen.
The Vols have three commitments for the Class of 2020 that plan to be utilized in the defensive backfield, but the defensive-minded head coach is out for more.
Pruitt, along with running backs coach David Johnson, paid a visit to Whitehaven High School in Memphis, Tenn. on Friday to speak with the Tigers’ three-headed monster at the linebacker position in Bryson Eason, Montavius French and Tamarion McDonald.
Eason and French had already received an offer from Tennessee and by Friday night, McDonald got his.
“I went down to a camp in June and coach Pruitt and coach Johnson said they would be watching me this season,” McDonald said. “I saw them Friday at our game and they have let us know they wanted all three of us. That’s why coach Pruitt came to our game.”
“He called me after the game and I had the offer.”
McDonald is listed as a four-star by Rivals, standing 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. The Memphis, Tenn. product verbally committed Mississippi State in May and has 12 other offers on the table, including Southeastern Conference rivals Kentucky, Ole Miss and LSU.
The Tennessee coaches told McDonald that he is a smart football player and one that makes smart choices when on the field. The linebacker claims he is a selfish player — one that goes to great lengths to generate takeaways.
“During the game, I’ll tell anybody that I’m fixing to take the ball away. I just come up and make the play. That’s the type of player I am.”
That type of mindset proves to be beneficial on the field – particularly on the defensive side. With Tennessee utilizing the young talents of Quavaris Crouch and Roman Harrison at outside linebacker this season, the team could toy with the idea of McDonald as a bigger nickel-back if he chooses to come to Rocky Top.
Whitehaven coach Rodney Saulsberry joined The Nation on Knoxville’s Sports Radio WNML Sunday night and detailed the versatility McDonald brings to his football team.
“I list him as an athlete but, body wise; I think he’ll grow into a linebacker. He can play strong safety and free safety. He’s obviously played outside and inside linebacker. He plays tight end and wide receiver. He can play quarterback and he is even our punter.
“He’s a kid that can literally do anything on the field. The sky is the limit for this kid.”
The possibility of early playing time will be a factor in McDonald’s final decision but a reassurance of the coaching staff’s concern for him off the field will also play a role.
“It felt like family. When I talked to coach [Joe] Moorehead, it was more than just football,” McDonald said of Mississippi State. “They tell me to keep my head on straight and to keep my grades up. Really all of that.”
Though the West Tennessee standout is committed, the game isn’t over just yet. McDonald plans to continue taking official visits throughout the season and asking questions before coming to his final decision. He will take an OV to Tennessee this weekend.
“When I go on visits, I like to pull the players aside to ask them how they treat them. It can be all cookies and ice cream duringthe recruiting process but be a whole different story once you actually get there. So, I just like to see how they are actually treated and to get the full spill.”
Having just picked up his 13th offer from Tennessee], McDonald plans on being back at Neyland Stadium this season. He isn’t concerned about the slow start either, for the Vols. Rather, it motivates him to be one of the few to help turn things around in Knoxville.