They lost out on 2023 five-star offensive lineman Francis Mauigoa on Monday, but Tennessee football managed to add an elite future teammate of his at IMG Academy in Florida for the next year. As a result, it wasn’t a complete loss for Josh Heupel and the Vols on Fourth of July.
Jonathan Echols, who plays edge rusher and tight end, became the first commitment in UT’s 2024 recruiting class Monday. A five-star on 247Sports Composite but a four-star on 247Sports, Rivals and On3 who is not yet rated on ESPN, Echols stands between 6’4″ and 6’6″ and weighs between 215 and 230 pounds.
Initially from Georgia, Echols chose Tennessee football over the numerous powerhouse programs, including the Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama Crimson Tide, Oklahoma Sooners and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He announced his commitment to the Vols Monday on Twitter.
— Jonathan Echols ✪ (@jechols24) July 4, 2022
This past year, Echols played at Heard County High School in Franklin, Ga., according to Ryan Callahan of 247Sports. He announced in January his move to Bradenton, Fla., to play for the high-profile school in Manatee County. As a result, he and Mauigoa will play together this year.
Callahan was the one reported that he plays tight end, and on his hudl profile, he refers to himself as a wide receiver, so he clearly has some versatility. However, he is listed as an athlete there and on ESPN. On3, meanwhile, has him as an edge, and Rivals has him as a weakside defensive end, so it appears he could fill either role.
Regardless, adding such players is always a bonus. It’s hard to project exactly what Heupel’s needs will be when Echols arrives on campus given the transfer portal and the questions surrounding when players will leave, but Echols will clearly provide value. Here’s a look at his highlight reel.
As you can see, Echols truly is an athlete in every sense of the word. He’s got the ability to jump the snap count and the speed to rush the quarterback, he can drop back in coverage, he can win matchups at wideout, and he can block.
Simply put, this guy can do it all, so Tennessee football just got itself a player. Heupel will have lots of options in terms of where to put him, so this is definitely a great first pickup for the Vols in 2024. One this high-profile is a great sign for them also.