Rivals Top-50 safety Dakaari Nelson feels 'family vibe' with Vols
Tennessee is doing its best with 2023 defensive back Dakaari Nelson to date. The four-star and the 49th-rated prospect in the 2023 class has been in regular contact with the Volunteer coaching staff since Josh Heupel’s bunch re-offered him back in the spring.
“The relationship I have with Tennessee is really strong right now,” the prospect told Volquest. “Tennessee was one of my first offers and ever since then, we’ve talked a lot. I’ve talked to pretty much the whole coaching staff.
“It’s kind of like a family vibe. When I went there, that’s how I felt. Tennessee is one of my dad’s favorite teams, too, so he was excited when they originally offered me.”
It’s been a group effort for the coaching staff with Rodney Garner and [defensive backs assistant] Tyson Kee leading the charge. Jeremy Pruitt’s staff originally offered the 6-foot-3, 195-pound athlete about a year ago.
“Their message to me is that they like my versatility,” Nelson said. “I played a lot of linebacker last season because that’s where my team needed me, but I’m really a safety. That’s what I play now, but they like how I can come downfield in the box and play physical as well as cover over the top.
“They like my length as well.”
The Salem, Ala. native was in town for an unofficial check-in back on June 10. Nelson also stopped by Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Southern Miss this summer while taking part in camps at Auburn and LSU.
“It was a lot, actually,” the No. 2 safety in the class said. “The main thing I remember was everyone greeting me and my family. My family loved everything up there at Tennessee. I enjoyed the vibe and loved the city.”
Nelson has 13 offers as of now with all but one stemming from the Power 5 landscape. Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are in a group with Tennessee as SEC programs to offer while others such as Oklahoma, Penn State and Michigan have as well.
The Vols, Commodores, Nittany Lions, Yellow Jackets and Sooners are the programs recruiting him the hardest as of now.
“On the field, I’m a versatile player who can come down and make the tackle or cover over the top,” Nelson said when asked to evaluate himself. “I’m calling all the plays and formations for my defense right now.
‘Off the field, I have to be good. My dad is our principal [Selma HS]. I’m a good kid who stays on top of my grades. I’ve already made a 19 on my ACT. I take AP classes and dual-enroll, too.”
The 2023 target is a defensive back who loves to play man coverage. Nelson plays wideout on offense and returns kicks on special teams. Though he believes to be a defensive player at the next level, Arkansas has offered him to play wide receiver.
“I like offense more than defense right now, but that’s because I grew up playing on that side of the ball,” Nelson concluded. “I only started playing defense in high school and I’m still learning. But in two games so far this year, I’ve allowed only two catches for 10 yards on four targets.”
The athlete, who also averaged 15 points a game on the hardwood as a sophomore, plans to visit Tennessee for a game day this fall.