Tennessee began to build momentum on the recruiting trail Monday afternoon with the additions of Jaylen Wright, a speedy running back from South Carolina, and Isaiah Gaddy, a late commit for the 2020 class. On Tuesday the Vols continued to thrive off of the momentum with the addition of Walker Merrill, who chose to join Tennessee’s 2021 class over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
Merrill’s final schools were Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt, but the 5’11 174-pound receiver held offers from 23 other college programs. Among the teams that pursued Merrill were Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn, South Carolina, Nebraska, Kentucky, and others. It is also worth noting that the offer list for Merrill will likely continue to grow as the year progresses, as he still has a whole season (assuming the COVID-19 crisis is resolved by then) to prove himself.
Merrill is known for his ability to break tackles despite his average speed, and while the receiver is only rated as a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, many experts claim that he has the potential to not only start at the collegiate level but also has the chance to make it all the way to the NFL.
“Athletic wide receiver frame with the size to play on the outside, be a factor as a blocker and shrug off tacklers as a runner. Above average athlete with twitch to his game. Hasn’t posted elite speed times but has shown top end explosive testing with vertical and long jumps. Plays with toughness after the catch, fighting for yardage. Brings value in the return game. More athlete than receiver right now. Regularly lets the ball into his body. Limited route-tree with a lot of hitch and screen catches. Needs refinement but has the body type and athletic profile to emerge as a productive Power Five starter with NFL potential.” -Barton Simmons, 247Sports’ Director of Scouting
A native of Brentwood, Tennessee, Merrill was an expected get for Tennessee but was an extremely necessary one. Recruiting is an extremely important aspect of succeeding in the SEC, and it is almost impossible to do that without building a fence around your state. Merrill is rated by 247Sports as the 6th best player in Tennessee and the 52nd top player at his position, earning an overall rating of 0.8845, which is classified as a 3-star recruit.
Landing Merrill is a very good sign for the Vols, as it proves that Jeremy Pruitt is taking in-state talent seriously, and won’t allow other programs to come into the Volunteer State and steal some of the players from his backyard. We have also included a video showing some of the top moments from Merrill’s junior season last year here if you’re interested in seeing the on-field potential of the young receiver with your own eyes.