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 Georgia product Wanya Morris.
Anyone who watched Tennessee play this fall could see that offensive line play was an Achilles’ heel. In order to be successful in SEC football, a team must be able to run the ball and protect the passer. The Vols struggled mightily to do both those consistently in 2018. Tennessee averaged 129 yards rushing per game on the season, dead last in the SEC. The Vols also only had two 100 yard rushers in a game in 2018, an indicator of how poorly the run game developed. Pass protection was also an area of concern for Tennessee last season. Although Vol signal callers were sacked 23 times, tied with Auburn for 7th in the conference, Jarrett Guarantano and Keller Chryst were consistently harassed and hit on drop back attempts. Any team transitioning into a new offense should expect growing pains, but Tennessee never seemed to progress past those roadblocks. Many various factors go into an offense struggling, but the inconsistency of the offensive line certainly hampered the Vols when they had the ball.
Offensive line was certainly going to be a point of emphasis for Jeremy Pruitt and his staff on the recruiting trail. The Vols were able to sign five offensive linemen in the 2019 recruiting cycle, including 2 five star players, 1 four star, and 2 three star road graders. Morris a 6’6” 309 pound tackle out of Grayson High School in Loganville, GA was certainly one of the biggest nets of the 2019 recruiting season. Tennessee was able to snag Morris over offers from Clemson, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama, among others, including Florida State, to which he was originally committed. Morris is a composite 5 star, and is ranked as the number 28 player in the country, the number 6 offensive lineman, and the number 5 player in the state of Georgia, according to Rivals. He was named 2nd team All-American by USA Today and MaxPreps. Morris was also able to early enroll at Tennessee, which allows him to practice with the team during spring football.
Offensive line is a position where sheer size is an attribute that is greatly coveted among coaches across the country. Wanya certainly fits this bill in this regard, with his 6’6” 300 plus pound frame. He is spoken very highly of by his high schools coaches. Grayson head coach Christian Hunnicutt said of Morris, “He is clearly a guy that has an unlimited ceiling…..He has a really high football IQ. In terms of his demeanor off the field, he is not a rockstar and has not gone Hollywood on anybody and is very humble and low maintenance. He is other-centered and has been a tremendous ambassador for our program on and off the field. He has great length…” Dante Williams, passing game coordinator/QB coach at Grayson said of Morris that, “Wanya Morris is the best left tackle in the nation. There aren’t many young men his size that can move the way Wanya does.”
The first thing that jumps out about Morris is his size. Having a 6’6” frame along with long arms allows him to get separation from defensive linemen in pass protection. He has a very quick first step out of his stance, which allows him to get set and shut down would be pass rushers on the edge. When he does get beat, he has the quickness to recover and lock on to the defender. Morris is very physical in run blocking as well as pass pro. He buries defenders and helps create running lanes for the backs. He is deceptively fast for a 300 plus pound lineman, and is able to get to the second level and block the linebacker, as well as block downfield on backers and DBs in the screen game. He is a dominating force at the point of attack, and has all the intangibles and skills that offensive line coaches dream about.
Pruitt and offensive line coach Will Friend were able to immediately address the need for marquee players in this 2019 recruiting cycle. Only time will tell if the signees that they were able to net will turn into great players. The fact that Morris early enrolled and is able to practice with the team in spring will pay huge dividends for him this fall. He could very well be the starter at left or right tackle when the Vols open the season against Georgia State on August 31st. Wanya Morris certainly has the measurables to become a great SEC offensive lineman, and the success of the Vols in 2019 and going forward will be dependent on how well he and the other players in this class develop.