Three Brentwood Academy seniors signed letters of intent with Southeastern Conference teams Wednesday.
Left-handed pitcher Tayler Montiel signed with Mississippi State in baseball, 6-foot-2 forward Savannah Dews went with LSU in basketball and center back Lucy James Dawson inked with Auburn in soccer.
“Time will tell,” BA coach Rhonda Brown said of Dews’ college potential. “She has a huge upside. (LSU) liked her from the beginning. (She) will hopefully have a big season for us this year.”
Dews was limited to two games at BA last season after transferring from Ravenwood.
Knox, whose older brother, Dawson, is a second-year tight end with the Buffalo Bills, had four goals and two assists for the Lady Eagles this season.
She helped lead BA (10-2-1) to the Division II-AA semifinals.
Montiel’s fastball has been clocked in the 89-91-mph range.
“I committed two years ago so I’ve kind of known it was coming and there’s been a lot of anticipation building up to today,” Montiel said. “Most of my summer team is committed there. I think six guys that played with me in the summer are going there. It was just a good fit.”
Montiel plays for the Dulins Dodgers, an elite baseball program in Memphis, during the summer.
He will be part of a strong recruiting class.
“We feel like it’s a top 10 class,” Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis said. “I think Baseball America had us at sixth (nationally) today.”
Like many of the top programs, the Bulldogs are likely to lose players from their recruiting class to the 2021 Major League Baseball draft.
“Last year, we had two high school kids sign for over $6 million,” said Lemonis, who will enter his third season in 2021.
Mississippi State was 12-4 when the coronavirus pandemic ended the college season prematurely.
“We’re the only team in the country that’s been to four straight Super Regionals,” Lemonis said. “We’ve been to back-to-back College World Series and we’ve been top 10 in the country the last three years, so we feel like we’ve got a real good team coming back. We’re trying to build on that momentum with these recruiting classes that you’re seeing.”
Montiel has a 3-3 career record with 67 strikeouts in 53 innings and a 2.11 earned run average.
“I was talking to a couple of other schools, but Mississippi State was the best -- far and away,” said Montiel, who went 1-0 for the Eagles in their pandemic-shortened season last spring.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder keeps hitters off-balance with fastballs, curveballs, changeups and sliders.
BA only got to play two games last season, which was cut short by COVID-19.
Recruiting has been difficult during the pandemic.
“Luckily, we have a great product to sell and you can sell it online or TV,” Lemonis said. “It’s a little bit easier for us, but it hasn’t been easy.”
BA coach Chandler Ganick describes Montiel as a weird hybrid pitcher.
“He has the stuff to be a power pitcher, he wants to be a power pitcher, but likes to pitch like a finesse pitcher,” Ganick said. “I think he has the mental makeup and the physical ability to be one of our more dominant pitchers we’ve had come through our program, which is saying a lot, especially over the last several years.”
Ganick says Montiel soaks in coaching like a sponge. Lemonis and Ganick both believe he will improve greatly in college when he devotes all his time to pitching.
“For the most part, he trains as a football player eight or seven months out of the year,” Ganick said. “I’m really interested to see what happens when he trains as a baseball player, especially at the level he’s going to be playing at as a pitcher.”
Montiel became the first BA player to sign with an SEC team since catcher Will Haynie inked with Alabama in 2012.
Montiel also plays quarterback for the Eagles (10-0), who host Pope John Paul II (8-2) in the DII-AAA quarterfinals on Friday the 13th.
“Disappointing year last year, but we’ve been able to just get revenge on everyone that beat us last year and hopefully get back to state,” said Montiel, whose team went 6-4 and missed the 2019 playoffs after winning its fourth consecutive state title the previous season. “Every week it’s in our ear that last year at this time we weren’t playing and remember that feeling.”
Injuries ravaged the Eagles last fall, but they rebounded with an undefeated regular season capped by last week’s 21-20 win over Baylor as BA rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit.
Montiel isn’t the only quarterback who signed with the Bulldogs in baseball.
“We actually have the leading passer in the state of Alabama, too, so we have two great quarterbacks coming in here next year,” Lemonis said of Oxford’s Trey Higgins. “I’m sure we’ll be pretty good there in intramurals.”
Montiel has passed for 1,967 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 60.8% completion percentage and four interceptions in BA’s spread offense this season.
“He’s more of a gunslinger-type guy and I think it’s fun for the receivers,” BA football coach Cody White said. “He’s got great vision and a lot of intangibles.”
Montiel is elusive in the pocket and keeps plays alive with his scrambling ability.
“People have to stay in coverage for a long time when they’re defending him,” White said. “He’s a good passing quarterback. I mean, I think he’s the best one in our league.”
White said Montiel could play college football, but he’s always been a baseball guy.
White knew what kind of quarterback he had in the third game of the season, a 30-27 win at defending state champion McCallie.
“We played them early when they were at full strength and he threw for 366 yards and we probably had 70 yards of dropped passes,” White said. “He single-handedly led us on a spectacular drive. Had one play where he scrambled around, had a snap on the ground and found a kid on the other side that was running a wheel route. Just a huge play.”
Montiel started five games last year when Wade Williams was injured.
Montiel’s dad, Tony, played tight end at Tennessee Tech from 1990-93.
BA’s previous SEC baseball signees
Will Haynie, Alabama
Jay Ray, Kentucky
Hal Garrett, Vanderbilt (opted for professional baseball)
Wyatt Allen, Tennessee
Ryan Meyers, Tennessee
Ryan Young, Ole Miss
Buddy Alexander, Kentucky
D.J. Luna, Vanderbilt