In Josh Heupel’s second year with Tennessee football, he has put together what will likely remain a top-10 recruiting class.
Heupel picked up seven prospects out of both Georgia and Tennessee, establishing Tennessee’s recruiting territory in the 2023 class. He also filled many needs, focusing on the line and defense in this class.
“We believe in, obviously, their athleticism but just as importantly who they are,” Heupel said while speaking to media following National Signing Day. “I’d like to thank their families for entrusting us with their sons for the next three-to-five years. I want to congratulate our staff. That’s our full-time coaches, everybody inside the building, our personnel department, our on-campus recruiters, and our training staff. It takes everybody inside of the building to recruit elite players.”
Although Heupel will likely pick up several more prospects via the transfer portal, here is how the Off The Hook Sports staff grades the Tennessee football offensive high school pickups.
Nico Iamaleava: 6-foot-5 and 195-pound five-star, No. 4 prospect nationally, Warren HS (Downey, CA)
Iamaleava is by far the biggest pickup in the 2023 class. He ranks as the No. 2 quarterback in the 2023 class behind Archie Manning. Iamaleava finished his high school career at Downey Warren with 5,234 yards passing and 75 touchdowns. He only threw seven interceptions in his high school career.
Imaleava creates a quarterback competition the first day he steps onto the field. Not only does he give Heupel a solid choice to run his offense, but he also gives potential high school wide receivers a reason to be excited about Tennessee.
Heupel and quarterback coach Joey Halzle turned Hendon Hooker from a backup to a Heisman contender, so it will be fun to see what they can do with Iamaleava.
RUNNING BACK (2)
Khalifa Keith: 6-foot and 235-pound three-star, No. 583 prospect nationally, Parker HS (Birmingham, AL)
Although Keith’s rating may not jump off the page, he fills a big hole for the Vols. Tennessee spent most of 2022 without a heavy power back. Often, tight end Princeton Fant filled the void and was utilized as a goal line back.If Keith was on Tennessee’s roster right now, he would be the heaviest running back the Vols have.
DeSean Bishop: 5-10 and 196-pound three-star, No. 1,256 prospect nationally, Karns HS (Knoxville, TN)
Hometown running back Bishop chose the Vols on signing day. The back-to-back Mr. Football winner was committed to Coastal Carolina before Jamey Chadwell left for Liberty. Bishop finished his high school career with over 8,000 all-purpose yards and sits near the top of the Tennessee leaderboards. Although he isn’t ranked super high, he has the potential to develop within Heupel’s offense.
Tennessee football isn’t necessarily in need of running back help next season. Jabari Small is likely to return, and Jaylen Wright isn’t draft-eligible. The Vols also saw flashes from freshman Dylan Sampson.
What the Vols did need was a heavier power-back, and they get that with Keith. He could have an instant impact on the goal line. As for Bishop, he may have an impact on special teams, but will likely develop and be utilized down the road.
WIDE RECEIVER (3)
Cameron Seldon: 6-1 and 220 pound four-star, No. 115 prospect nationally, Northumberland HS (Heathsville, VA)
Seldon is listed as an athlete, but will likely play wide receiver for Tennessee. He can fly, running a 10.74-second 100-meter dash.
At Seldon’s size, he could be a linebacker or a receiver. His play style would probably be similar to Bru McCoy’s. He finished 2022 with 551 yards and 11 touchdowns on 45 rushing attempts. He also caught 18 passes for 365 yards and five touchdowns.
Nathan Leacock: 6-3 and 200-pound four star, No. 107 prospect nationally, Millbrook HS (Raleigh, NC)
Leacock is arguably one of the most ready to play freshman the Vols have coming in. He possess good size and length, and also can fly on the field. He runs a 10.88-second 100-meter dash, 22.45-second 200-meter, and a 48.76-second 400-meter.
He finished 2022 with with 1,703 yards and 23 touchdowns on 82 receptions.
Nate Spillman: 6-1.5 and 194-pound three-star, No. 36 prospect from Tennessee, Lipscomb Academy (Nashville, TN)
Keeping Spillman in-state was a big get for Heupel and his staff. Heupel and his staff arre also after his younger brother.
With Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman both declaring for the draft, the Vols will have a lot of turnover in their receiver room. While Heupel will likely still go after a portal receiver, adding three high school guys will add much need depth.
Leacock and Seldon highlight the receiver additions. Both could play snaps in year-one for Tennessee football.
TIGHT END (1)
Ethan Davis: 6-5 and 230-pound four-star, No. 126 prospect nationally, Collins Hill HS (Suwanee, GA)
Davis rehabbed a labrum injury his senior year, but caught 61 passes for 755 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. He helped lead Collins Hill to a Georgia 7A State Championship.
Davis is the lone tight end Heupel picked up in the 2023 class. If all goes right, he could instantly have an impact in replacing Princeton Fant, who is out of eligibility.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN (3)
Shamurad Umarov: 6-6 and 337-pound four-star, No. 288 prospect nationally, Denmark HS (Alpharetta, GA)
Umarov was a big pickup, literally and figuratively, for Tennessee. Kirby Smart wanted Umarov so bad he flew a helicopter to his high school.
Vysen Lang: 6-4.5 and 335 pound three-star, No. 814 prospect nationally, Pike Road HS (Pike Road, AL)
Lang is a state champion in Alabama’s 5A and was one of Tennessee’s more recent commitment. He is considered a good leader and a hard worker by his head coach.
Ayden Bussell: 6-5 and 287-pound three-star, No. 833 prospect nationally, Mount Juliet HS (Mount Juliet, TN)
An in-state prospect, Bussell helps Tennessee add more length to its line. He received all-state honors and was named offensive MVP for Tennessee’s 5-5A region.
With any high school offensive lineman, they will likely need to put on weight or slim out. Either way, Heupel has signed some very projectable athletes.
Although transfer portal players will fill the holes for next year, don’t be suprised if some of these guys play as sopomores.