Pensacola Catholic standout playmaker Damarius McGhee solidifed himself as one of the city’s biggest recruits in the Class of 2021 on Thursday.
McGhee verbally committed to the University of Tennessee and head coach Jeremy Pruitt in a move first reported by the PNJ’s Brian Achatz.
A Top 100 player ranked in the Top 10 of his position group nationally according to 247 Sports, McGhee is the latest in a growing list of SEC commits or signings from Pensacola.
Earlier this summer, West Florida Tech’s Simeon Price committed to South Carolina while Escambia’s Jacob Copeland (Florida) and Booker T. Washington’s Alex Leatherwood (Alabama) have already made waves in college.
Here are five things to know about one of Pensacola’s top football prospects:
1. He plays quarterback too?
It’s a little-hidden secret that McGhee is a threat at quarterback in addition to his efforts on defense, special teams and at the skill positions.
Pensacola Catholic’s offense featured packages designed for McGhee to take direct snaps and he also filled in for starting quarterback Colin Whibbs in stints as a backup.
With Whibbs’ graduation, there’s the possibility that McGhee could see more snaps at quarterback. How exciting to wait and see what head coach Matt Adams draws up for McGhee next.
2. His last game may have been his best yet
On the season’s biggest stage, McGhee nearly willed a previously unbeaten Catholic team to a spot in the FHSAA state semifinals.
Trailing 13-0 in the fourth quarter of a region final contest against rival Florida High, McGhee scored a punt return touchdown and converted an 88-yard, fourth-down Hail Mary to claw the Crusaders to an improbable 14-13 lead late in the fourth quarter.
More: Deflected Hail Mary by Florida High’s Willie Taggart Jr. ends Catholic’s perfect season
Florida High’s Willie Taggart Jr. denied Catholic its Final Four berth, hitting his own improbable Hail Mary pass in the final minutes to hand the Crusaders their first and only loss of the year.
Despite the loss, it was a quintessential McGhee performance as the Catholic star helped contain a dynamic Florida High offense – forcing one turnover – before producing two clutch, explosive touchdowns on special teams and offense.
3. 247 Sports and Rivals disagree?
While 247 Sports rates McGhee a four-star prospect – and the nation’s No. 8 overall cornerback prospect – Rivals rates the rising Catholic senior a two-star prospect.
His 247 Composite score averages out at a three-star rating, but McGhee’s extensive offer sheet – 30 in total as of July 30 – and interest from major programs like Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma make clear McGhee’s caliber as a recruit.
4. Fitting the mold at Tennessee
247 Sports reporter Brent Hubbs noted that McGhee fit a need for Tennessee roster as top corners Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson enter their final two seasons.
All the better that McGhee’s lengthy frame – 6-foot-1, 162 pounds – matches a common recruiting profile for Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley when targeting cornerback recruits.
Eric J. Wallace can be reached at [email protected] or 850-525-5087.