Another member of the 2021 Tennessee football recruiting class is entering the transfer portal. Wide receiver Walker Merrill enters after two years on Rocky Top.
Merrill caught 13 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns during his two years with Tennessee football. Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman both entering the NFL Draft would suggest there would be more opportunities for him.
That’s especially the case given the fact that Merrill is a bit of a hybrid between a wideout and a slot receiver. Similar to JaVonta Payton, he could’ve lined up wherever he was needed.
However, wideout proved it was set without Tillman this year when, as he was missing six games due to injury, Ramel Keyton and Bru McCoy emerged. Both had touchdowns in the Vols’ Orange Bowl win over the Clemson Tigers.
Meanwhile, in the slot, Squirrel White had been emerging all year as the heir apparent to Hyatt. With over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in the Orange Bowl, he’s clearly in line to take over for Hyatt.
White’s emergence in the regular season as Hyatt’s backup likely had a role in Jimmy Calloway and Jimmy Holiday entering the transfer portal. It had to have a similar impact on Merrill.
Meanwhile, McCoy and Keyton returning iced out the potential at wideout. Add in the incoming talent from the Vols’ 2022 recruiting class, and there is just too much potential at the position.
In general, everybody should wish the best for Merrill. He has a lot of potential. The problems is how loaded Tennessee football is at every aspect of receiver going forward.
Given the fact that White appears to be the next star in the rotation for the Vols at receiver, the room for Merrill is already limited. Add in McCoy and Keyton returning, and there was just no room for Merrill to make the impact.