Marquez Callaway just saw his recruitment turn up a notch by spending a few days at Tennessee last weekend. Instead of continuing to look further, he’d seen enough and publicly declared his intentions to sign with the Volunteers.
“I’d say the coaches and the environment, the people that I’m surrounded by,” Callaway said of his affection for the Orange & White.
Callaway chose Tennessee over finalists Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Clemson and Ohio State were expressing more interest of late but the Volunteers not only showed the Scout 300 member on orange path is best for him.
“I’d say it’s different,” Callaway said of Rocky Top. “It’s different from a lot of schools that I’ve been to.”
The amount of attention paid to the 17th member of Tennessee’s class by the Vols staff stuck out to newest pledge.
“The coaches, most coaches basically say the same thing,” Callaway told InsideTennessee. “Ever since they’ve started recruiting me, I haven’t had anybody that’s recruiting me as hard as they have and it’s like that. I’ve never been wanted as much as they’ve been wanting me. So I think that the trust is there, the consistency and from what the players tell me, a lot of them say they wouldn’t trade it for anything, but probably all the teams say that.”
Coach Butch Jones and his staff put their best foot forward over the weekend, hosting the 4.56 speedster from Warner Robins, Georgia, on his first official visit. Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni broke down film of what Callaway did on the prep level and how route-running can improve on the next level and how it can take another step forward in professional football.
Film study isn’t always the most exciting thing to a teenager but Callaway has the mindset of a playmaker.
“I’m a receiver so no offensive route is boring to me,” Callaway said. “He talked to me about how they can make it better and all the things I can do to be the best receiver I can be.”
The 6-foot-2 1/4, 183-pounder ranks by Scout as the No. 136 player in the nation and the South’s No. 6 athlete but expects to play wide receiver on Rocky Top. Callaway joins Jeff George of Dodge City (Kan.) Community College, Corey Henderson of Evangelical (La.) Christian and Brandon Johnson of American Heritage (Fla.) School as pass catchers in Tennessee’s 2016 class.
Big Orange Country is already salivating at the thought of a potential four-wide receiver set in 2017 that includes Callaway, Tee Higgins, Josh Smith and Preston Williams with Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano at quarterback.
Scout’s evaluation of Callaway: “A true athlete is what Callaway is. Not only a star in football, but in basketball too. Great length, long frame and excellent ball skills. Hands like elite wide receivers. Very coordinated. Plays a lot of corner on defense, but could be top free safety. Wide receiver is a real option too. Not elite burst, but good quickness and very good closing speed. Can high-point ball, shows very good body control, and fluid.”
As a senior, Callaway caught 34 passes for 526 yards (15.5 avg.) with five touchdowns. He carried the football 14 times for 154 yards (11.0) with another TD. He averaged 30.3 yards per kickoff return and 12.7 yards per punt return. Defensively, he intercepted three passes and returned them for 41 yards, including one for a house call.
The multi-sport talent has a love for life on the hardwood but understands it's a trying task to play both basketball and football on the SEC level.
“I mean I want to, but a lot from what the players say about how much time it takes up, by the time football is over with, it won’t be enough time for basketball,” Callaway said.
With Callaway on board, Tennessee should get a boost up to about No. 17 in the Scout national rankings as the No. 14 athlete in the nation accounts for 290 points.
Callaway and his Warner Robins teammates reached the GHSA Class AAAAA state playoffs but fell in the first round to Coffee 37-10. Coach Bryan Way’s Demons finished 7-4. Way retired Wednesday with a career record of 92-48-1.