After finishing his career with Brentwood football, Walker Merrill wasted no time impressing the folks up on Rocky Top.
The former Bruins wide receiver is part of the University of Tennessee's spring practices and has already caught the eye of first-year coach Josh Heupel.
Though Heupel was hired in late January out of UCF and did not recruit Merrill, he praised the freshman's performance in the team's second team scrimmage.
“He plays extremely hard,” Heupel said (via The Vols Wire). “He is smart, competitive, knows where he needs to be. As much as anything, it matters a great deal to him, and that pushes him and drives him, whether that is in the meeting room or catching extra balls off the JUGS machine during his spare time. Whether that is running extra routes, that is how he approaches everything he does. He has urgency.
“It matters to him, he wants to be great, and he is going to be a special player as his career continues to go on.”
Merrill was a four-star recruit per 247Sports who chose the Vols over Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. Then-coach Jeremy Pruitt anticipated Merrill would filter into the receiving rotation in no time, but he was fired this winter after Tennessee self-reported NCAA violations that happened under Pruitt's watch.
In came Heupel, who now seems to find in Merrill what Pruitt did: a freshman who has a bright future in orange and white.
At Brentwood, the 6'1" receiver set Bruin records in his senior campaign last fall for receptions in a season (200), receptions in a game (16) and receiving yards in a game (206). He is second in the school's history for receiving yards in a season as well with 1,173.
He also helped Brentwood reach the 6A state finals in December, where they fell to Oakland. His quarterback, Cade Granzow, is going to play baseball and walk on the football team at Auburn.
At Tennessee, Merrill is joined by his old Brentwood teammate and fellow freshman Chayce Bishop, who finished his career at Independence, and Brentwood Academy alum and redshirt junior place kicker Toby Wilson.
The Vols wide receivers room features USC transfer and redshirt senior Velus Jones, Jr., redshirt seniors J.T. Siekerman, Tanner Dobrucky and Grant Frerking, redshirt junior Cedric Tillman, juniors Kenney Solomon and Ramel Keyton, redshirt sophomore Michael Bittner and sophomores Jimmy Calloway, Jalin Hyatt, Malachi Wideman, Andison Coby and Jimmy Holiday. Knoxville Catholic's Jack Jancek is a redshirt freshman.