There is no secret how important the 2019 recruiting class is to Jeremy Pruitt and the Tennessee Volunteers. In multiple interviews this season, Pruitt referenced needing to get his own guys into the program before they could compete at the level they wanted. While Pruitt and Company recruited far better than anticipated during their brief time with the Vols in the 2018 cycle, the combination of a 4-8 season and the handicaps resulting from an odyssey of a coaching search clearly hampered them. The 2019 class represents Jeremy Pruitt’s first class at Tennessee in which he and his staff have had a full year to assemble the players they want. Due to the talent of these players and the emphasis Pruitt has placed on wanting to get his own players into the program, expect to see the young men from this class on the field early and often. Here's an idea of what to expect on the field through Spring Ball and into the fall. We continue our Player Profile series by looking at Franklin, Georgia product Aaron Beasley.
When Jeremy Pruitt arrived at Tennessee, everyone around the program knew that the roster was going to take some significant work before it was up to the first-time head coach’s standards. Still, even factoring in the dramatic changes in scheme that Pruitt wanted to institute, the laundry list of injuries that plagued the Vols under Butch Jones and the players he brought in even after his departure, and a brutal schedule, it was surprising to see just how much work the roster still needed. Throughout the 2018 campaign, Pruitt made several references to the importance of recruiting and bringing in his guys. In the 2019 class, Pruitt has signed a bevy of players that were physical, versatile, able to help the Vols in multiple spots, and that came from winning programs. While not the case for every prospect in the class, these were certainly themes for the class as a whole, as Pruitt is trying to make Tennessee bigger and more physical all over the field. He also seems focused on bringing in players that already know how to win at a high level. Pruitt has signed a few players that could help Tennessee on either side of the ball, players like Jeremy Banks in the 2018 class and Quavaris Crouch in the 2019 class. Both of these young men have gotten work at running back and linebacker, and for the moment, Banks looks to stay on offense, while Crouch looks to begin his Tennessee career as a linebacker. Another example comes in former five-star DeAngelo Gibbs, a transfer from Georgia, that has gotten work both as a receiver and defensive back. The Vols have a lot of work to do in order to get the roster where Jeremy Pruitt wants it, and players that could help the Vols in multiple areas of need are going to be prized. One of the most interesting additions to the Tennessee roster that fits that bill is Heard County product Aaron Beasley.
It appears that Beasley is going to start his Volunteer career working at safety, where at 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, he is a big, physical presence. Beasley shows good closing speed when he is on defense, reading plays and reacting to them well. Playing both safety spots in high school, Beasley looks comfortable in either role. His ability to watch a play develop, diagnose it correctly, and then get into the correct position shines on film. Defensively, Beasley is rarely out of place, and on the occasions that he is, or he bites on a play fake, he has smooth enough hips and enough make up speed to get back into the play and break up a pass. Beasley has good speed as a safety and should be able to help over the top on fast receivers in coverage. Where Beasley shines, though, is in his tackling. While he possesses good coverage skills, Beasley would much rather break up passes by delivering bone jarring hits. That ability to see and diagnose plays coupled with his excellent, aggressive breaks on the ball leads to situations where Beasley reaches receivers about the same time the ball does. Beasley is a thick, muscled 220 pounds, and when he gets a hard break to close on a receiver or runner, the results often resemble a pickup going over a milk jug. Beasley leaves opponents flattened in his wake, regularly making hits that leave fans of both teams cringing in sympathy. It is important to mention here, that Beasley is also a good form tackler. He is capable of delivering massive hits to receivers over the middle or running backs breaking into the secondary, all while wrapping up and keeping his head up. He avoids leading with the crown of his helmet and stays in the strike zone, meaning the big hits he levels will not see him tossed for a targeting penalty. The impressive play as a cerebral, hard hitting safety is only half of the story for Beasley, however.
As a senior, Beasley ran for just shy of 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading Heard County to their first ever state championship in Georgia’s AA division. This while playing as a high-level safety at the same time. Beasley may get his first look at Tennessee at safety, but expect running back coach David Johnson to lobby to for him to get some work on offense. Beasley would bring something different to the Volunteer backfield with his size as a bigger back. Tennessee’s top backs are all smaller and lighter than Beasley, with the exception of Jeremy Banks, though Beasley would offer a different skill set to Banks as well. Banks is a straight-ahead battering ram, running through defenders with his size and strength. Beasley utilized his size and strength well also and shows an ability to deliver a blow to defenders while running through arm tackles. Where Beasley separates himself is in his lateral movement and quickness. He can run through defenders, but he can also juke or cut them completely out of a play without breaking stride. It is not common to see a back the size of Beasley have the type of feet that he does, with smooth change of direction and quickness. The vision and awareness that makes him such a good safety also shows up when he is carrying the ball, as he sees his gaps in the line well, but he excels in the open field of seeing how the defense is trying to contain him, then breaking through it. The word that keeps coming back when evaluating Beasley is, “Complete,” whether as a safety or running back, Beasley is a complete player, capable of doing whatever a coach asks at either position.
That completeness is likely a product of another of Beasley’s strengths, his intangibles.
Beasley is just a football player. If he was asked to play offensive guard or defensive tackle, he would give it his best shot and likely be a nightmare to contain. The young man is a winner and a leader, two qualities that Pruitt has put an emphasis on in the 2019 class. Coaches love players like Beasley, not just for his exception skill set, but for his attitude and work ethic as well. This is a young man that would go take a bite out of a goalpost if he thought it would help his team. Beasley plays hard, plays physical, and plays with the kind of edge and toughness that Pruitt is trying to instill into this team on both sides of the ball.
While Beasley comes to Tennessee more than a little underrated, he does come in at two position groups where the Vols do have some quality depth. Beasley may be one of the better players that Tennessee landed in the 2019 class and is certainly one of my favorites when watching his film, but there are a lot of quality players between him and the field in 2019. The fact that Beasley may also be splitting time between both sides of the ball while coaches try to find him a four-year home, which could also slow his chance to play as a true freshman. Beasley will most likely play as a true freshman on special teams unless there are significant injuries in front of him. That said, don’t bet against Beasley working himself onto the field in a bigger role this season, or especially down the road. The Vols landed a quality player in the Heard County athlete, and Beasley’s development over his time in Knoxville should be interesting to watch.