On Nov. 20, Khalifa Keith committed to Tennessee football out of Alabama. He became the Vols’ 22nd commitment at the time. Here are five things to know about him.
Where Keith ranks
Keith is a three-star prospect across the board in all recruiting services. He measures out at 6-foot-1 and 225-pounds.
247Sports ranks Keith as the No. 66 running back in the class of 2023 and the No. 39 prospect from Alabama.
ON3 ranks Keith as the No. 40 running back, and the No. 26 prospect from Alabama.
How did Keith end up choosing Tennessee football?
Keith committed to the Kentucky Wildcats in July but backed off of his pledge in November after receiving a flurry of SEC offers.
On Oct. 21, Tennessee football extended Keith a scholarship offer. He had visited the Vols during their wins over the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide and informed the coaches he was committing to the Vols at their win over the Missouri Tigers.
The environment of Neyland Stadium during his visits stood out to Keith.
“In one word – crazy. … Vols fans are like a family there,” Keith told Rivals. “They are going to be behind you win, lose or tie. I also got to rush the field with fans afterwards.”
Keith verbally committed to Tennessee football on November 20th. He chose the Vols over the Army Black Knights, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, South Carolina Gamecocks and Mississippi State Bulldogs among others.
The need for a running back
On top of being Tennessee football’s only true running back in the class of 2023, if Keith was on the Vols’ roster today, he would be the heaviest back on the team. That would’ve been the case even before news of Len’Neth Whitehead hitting the transfer portal.
The Vols filled the power back roll in 2022 with tight end Princeton Fant, who played fullback in short-yardage downs. He did so in place of Whitehead, who suffered a season-ending injury back in August.
Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright have gained weight since arriving to Tennessee, with both hovering in the lower 200-pound range. Of the two, Small is more of the power back at 213 pounds.
At 225-pounds, Keith could give Josh Heupel and his offense a short-yardage threat at tailback. The Vols haven’t struggled to run the ball, but adding a bigger back to the arsenal to complement Small and Wright never hurts.
While statistics don’t tell the whole story of a prospect, they can tell a lot of it. Keith’s numbers jump off the page. For Parker High School in Birmingham, Ala., in 2022, Keith finished with 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on 157 attempts.
The Jefferson County prospect was even better in 2021, as he rushed for 1,877 yards and 28 touchdowns on 190 attempts. Dating back to his sophomore year, he has 315 carries for 2,614 yards and 39 touchdowns plus a receiving TD, according to MaxPreps.
What does Keith’s coach say?
Frank Warren, head coach of Parker High School, spoke highly of Keith following his choice to go to Tennessee.
“He’s a great player and an even better kid,” Warren told ON3. “I feel like Tennessee got a steal. Every time he touches the ball, something good can happen. He’s such a workhorse for us. He works so hard on and off the field. With his size, he still has the ability to run away from you. He’s just that type of kid. He’s explosive and an every-down back with that size. A lot of people think he can only run between the tackles, but he can catch it well and run outside also. When he gets a crease, he’s gone.”
Note: This is part of a series of articles looking at prospects who make up the Vols’ 2023 recruiting class leading up to the early signing period.