Earlier this week, it was revealed that Tennessee football wide receiver Malachi Wideman was no longer with the program. We then later found out that he entered the transfer portal after just one season on Rocky Top.
Finally, on Friday, he addressed the situation. Wideman released a statement on Twitter revealing that he had entered the portal, confirming that UT lost one more elite recruit from over the past couple years. It only makes things that much harder for Josh Heupel.
In his post, he thanked the university, specifically former head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff, for recruiting him. However, what he said next suggested a motive for leaving Tennessee football. Here’s his whole post.
That second paragraph is what really stands out. Wideman said he wants to showcase his talents in football and basketball. Remember, while the 6’4″ 200-pound receiver was a four-star out of Florida, he was also a four-star forward in men’s basketball. In fact, he was officially part of Rick Barnes’ 2020 recruiting class along with Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer and Corey Walker Jr.
All of those guys are gone, but given what Barnes did on the recruiting trail this past offseason, it’s possible that Wideman, with his focus on football, knew he wasn’t going to be able to put himself in position to become a key rotational player. After all, the Vols are now loaded, particularly on the wing, where Wideman was recruited to play.
Could Wideman have been waiting for the 2020-2021 class to clear out so he could become more of a feature player on the basketball team? It’s possible. However, with the commitment of Jahmai Mashack, the arrival of Auburn Tigers transfer Justin Powell and the return of Josiah-Jordan James, the wing is likely loaded.
Even if Wideman were to play the two, the Vols still have Victor Bailey Jr., and with five-star Kennedy Chandler arriving, Santiao Vescovi is about to be an option at the two as well. It’d be hard for Wideman to beat any of these guys out.
Honestly, if that’s the case, nobody should resent Wideman for making that decision. This is more a testament to how loaded Tennessee basketball is about to be in the future, and Tennessee football has options at receiver.
Even with Wideman gone, the Vols can turn to Velus Jones Jr. this year. Their future includes Jalin Hyatt, Cedric Tillman, Jimmy Calloway, Jimmy Holiday, Ramel Keyton, Julian Nixon, Walker Merrill and Andison Coby. Simply put, there are guys bound to step up in that group.
Last year, as a true freshman, Wideman played in six games. He had one catch for 24 yards in Tennessee football’s loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. Although the Vols lose a future elite target at wideout with his departure, they should still be okay.