Tennessee’s deep defensive line added another talented pass rusher Monday.
Grayson (Ga.) standout Mykelle McDaniel, a 2016 defensive end who committed to the Vols in late July, reported to Knoxville, officially ending a rollercoaster recruitment for the former 3-star prospect.
McDaniel has yet to be added to Tennessee’s roster, but that should happen sometime this week once fall classes start Wednesday.
“He’s super excited,” said Kenyatta Watson, the former college recruiting coordinator at Grayson.
“Tennessee is a great fit.”
McDaniel signed with Tennessee on July 23 during a mid-summer official visit.
I'm officially a VOL.1% pic.twitter.com/GkuKkVY6cE
— 1% (@MykelleMcDaniel) July 23, 2016
The former 3-star prospect held more than 30 offers, but his recruitment was roadblocked by academic issues.
Initially, the NCAA investigated classes McDaniel took when he was homeschooled years ago. Once that hurdle was cleared, McDaniel had to take and pass the ACT and Georgia Gateway Test to become an official full-academic qualifier.
“His grades were never the issue. He scored a 23 on the ACT,” Watson said.
“He couldn’t pass the graduation test.”
While many of McDaniel’s teammates at Grayson signed with colleges in February, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound prospect waited. On National Signing Day, McDaniel had papers to ink with Mississippi State, but he had other plans in mind.
After a number of tries, McDaniel passed the Gateway Test, but his offer list went “from everybody to somewhere around five,” Watson said.
Georgia, an early favorite, no longer had room. Neither did South Carolina. While Alabama, Oklahoma, USC and Texas A&M all were interested, McDaniel and his mother, Shawnte-Amoure Simmons, found themselves leaning toward an old favorite.
Tennessee was among the first schools to offer McDaniel, so when the Vols remained interested throughout McDaniel’s lengthy process, it meant a lot to McDaniel and his family.
“Tennessee was always at the top of his list,” Simmons told SEC Country.
“The whole process was heavy. It was stressful. However, I do feel, and I know Mykelle feels, he’s where he should be and things have a way of working themselves out. … The process can cause you to lose hope, but I’m grateful Mykelle never did.”
McDaniel gives the Vols another versatile body on the defensive line, and Watson believes the prospect is among the more underrated recruits in the 2016 class.
McDaniel recorded 10.5 sacks and 89 tackles for the Rams last fall, playing multiple positions up front.
“If you watch the film he was the best defensive lineman in the state of Georgia,” Watson said.
“Hands down, especially because he was so versatile.”
McDaniel developed into a heralded recruit under Grayson defensive line coach Mike Inman, who played at Alabama in the late 1970s. McDaniel learned how to study film, improve his technique and build on his natural gifts of speed and power.
“His tenacity is second to none,” Watson said.
“I’ve never seen a high school kid take it so seriously.”
Watson raved about McDaniel’s ceiling, too, saying he’s a more polished prospect leaving Grayson than former No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche — a NFL first-round pick this April.
“I was around when Robert Nkemdiche was at Greyson. He was a straight bull-rusher,” Watson explained.
“But Mykelle, he can beat you with speed, he can beat you with power. He can beat you with technique. See Robert didn’t have all that when he was in high school. … (Tennessee) is getting probably one of the smartest and most prepared football players that I’ve ever been around.”
While McDaniel took a delayed and circuitous route to Tennessee, his mom strongly believes everything happens for reason. McDaniel’s hurdles have only set a strong foundation for his future, Simmons explained.
“No parent likes to see their child disappointed,” she said.
“It can be very uncomfortable and disheartening to watch your child experience that type of hurt.
“But anything worth having is worth fighting for. There’s more than one path to any given destination. Somebody else’s route — the normal route — wasn’t the route Mykelle had to take. What I encouraged him to do was not be so overwhelmed or feel like this was a negative thing. This was just the route for his path.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com