BEAVERTON, Ore. — Scrolling through the SPARQ times at The Opening, some of the nation’s premiere prep football players posted eye-popping 40-yard dash times.
Defensive backs, running backs and wide receivers load up the leaderboard. At the No. 10 spot it appear to be a typo with a “DL” listed. Only, that’s no mistake. That’s the freakish talent of the 6-foot-4 1/2, 240-pound Josh Sweat.
Pack on 94 tackles and 22 sacks as a junior at Oscar Smith (Va.) High School and it becomes glaringly apparent why he is now Scout’s No. 1-ranked defensive end for the 2015 class and programs like Tennessee salivate over his upside.
The Big Orange has had Sweat on its recruiting radar “about a year, year and a half.”
Volunteers recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni shifted up his regional focus after closing out the 2013 signing class, choosing to put more effort in Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Beach areas of the Old Dominion State.
“Excellent guy,” Sweat said with a laugh. “I’ve been talking to him a lot, pretty funny. We talk a lot. We both understand each other. So, that’s a good thing.”
Efforts to get Virginia’s best rising junior in orange and white got a boost when he made an unofficial visit this summer.
“It was pretty good,” Sweat told InsideTennessee at The Opening. “I knew what to expect with the coaches; they make me feel pretty comfortable. I mean, yeah, I liked it a lot. Of course they have a nice campus and stuff like that. I felt like they really do care about the players. So, I mean it was all around pretty good, nice facilities, nice dorms, everything was just nice.”
As a sign of how early he is into his recruitment education, the D-end hesitated to analyze the trip to Rock Top in terms of what really stuck out.
“I can’t really say where it is in terms of the top because I’ve only been to a couple of schools. Obviously the schools that I visited, I’m not going to say are in my top, but they’re the ones I’m more familiar with because I’ve been there. I really can’t say where they stand, but…”
Immediately after leaving Knoxville, the Scout five-star headed further south to check out the Georgia Bulldogs, admitting that the two programs are fairly even in certain aspects.
“That’s where most of the stuff gets kind of cluttered because you have a nice coaching staff of course, they both have nice facilities, they both have the top stuff like that. So, I’m going to have to look more in-depth to what’s going to separate the two. But, as far as comfort level, both are in a pretty good spot.
“I’ve got to see how it goes. I’ve got to evaluate it a little more.”
The end has roughly six months to find a way to separate schools like those Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rivals, as well as numerous others in hot pursuit. Sweat admits he’s “big on academics” and looking forward to graduating from Oscar Smith (Va.) High School early and enrolling in January.
Playing time is a factor, too.
“No one wants to come from high school and starting to having to sit out another year. Yeah, I would definitely love to be a true freshman (contributor).”
Sweat still has work to do to fully educate himself on the staffs and universities hoping to land him as a student-athlete. Official visits will likely have much to do with that thought process. However, no reservations have been made.
“I mean I’m not even sure (on where to officially visit),” Sweat said.. “If I decide to go back to the places that I’ve already visited or if I want to go to a west coast school or something like that, I’ll do it as an official. Right now, I’ve just got to go look at it.”
Azzanni, Butch Jones and the Tennessee staff will be on edge when Sweat makes his declaration but that moment doesn’t figure to come for months.
“I’ll try to do it during the season or after,” Sweat said. “I mean I wouldn’t say during. I dont’ know. It’s hard. So, I might say it’ll definitely be before it’s over.”
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