Darnell Wright could give Tennessee football two starting freshman tackles
Tennessee drew a couple of fans from Huntington, W. Va., to its spring football game last month. One of them will be back to stay in June.
UT fans should be excited about his return.
Darnell Wright of Huntington, W. Va., was one of UT’s most acclaimed recruits in the 2019 signing class. By the end of the spring game, he was having second thoughts about not enrolling early, as another sought-after offensive tackle did.
Five-star signee Wanya Morris already is running with Tennessee's first unit. If Wright had enrolled in January, he might have been in the same position.
The spring game made an impression on him, said his high school coach, Billy Seals, who accompanied Wright on the trip to Knoxville.
“He told me he wished he had early enrolled,” said Seals, who grew up in Morristown and later coached at Morristown East.
Wright might not have trouble catching up. Like Morris, he was one of Tennessee’s top recruits. Moreover, he plays a position of need. In fact, offensive tackle might be UT’s weakest position. Or at least it was weak before the Vols signed Morris and Wright.
No one should be shocked if, by the end of the 2019 season, the Vols were starting two freshman offensive tackles.
A fast start would be nothing new for Wright.
“Even in the eighth grade, you could see he was going to be something special,” Seals said.
By then, Wright was already 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. Now he’s 6-6, 327 pounds, Seals said.
Wright has added weight since his senior season at Huntington. Or, as Seals puts it, he has some “man muscles” on him.
Size is hardly Wright’s only asset. He won the state championship in the shot put. He also excelled in Huntington’s basketball program, which won state championships in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Wright didn’t play basketball as a senior, but Seals still has a highlight memory of him. On one opponent’s possession, Wright blocked three shots. On the third block, he grabbed the ball and dribbled the length of the court for a dunk, Seals said.
Never mind Wright’s basketball prowess. He always has attracted more attention as a football player, even when he was an oversized youth league running back and tight end. At Huntington, he also played defense, which Seals believes he could play at the college level, too.
As Wright kept growing, coaches realized he was best suited for offensive tackle. Seals raves about Wright's footwork, which was enhanced by playing basketball.
His talent wasn’t lost on West Virginia’s new coaching staff, which tried to keep him in state. New Mountaineers coach Neal Brown took his entire coaching staff to Huntington in pursuit of Wright. But West Virginia’s late push came up short.
Its loss could be Tennessee’s gain. And the Vols might not have to wait beyond Wright’s freshman season to realize that.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/johnadamskns.