After getting a scholarship offer from Tennessee in early February, Kaemen Marley made plans to visit the Vols sometime this spring, and perhaps again in the summer. But he didn’t get a chance to travel to Knoxville before the ongoing dead period for recruiting started in mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the end, that didn’t keep him from deciding he wanted to play at Tennessee.
The four-star Class of 2021 athlete from Eastern Randolph High School in Ramseur, N.C., announced Wednesday night that he has committed to the Vols, picking Tennessee over North Carolina and Kentucky.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Marley added to Tennessee’s recent hot streak in recruiting, giving the Vols their 13th commitment since April 26 and their 23rd commitment overall for the 2021 class.
He’s ranked the No. 146 overall prospect and No. 5 athlete in the 2021 class, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite.
Marley told 247Sports’ Don Callahan in March that Tennessee was one of the teams recruiting him hardest, along with North Carolina, N.C. State, Kentucky and Ohio State, and he was looking forward to visiting the Vols this spring to see for himself what they had to offer.
“I haven’t heard anything bad about it,” Marley said at the time. “I’ve always heard it was a good school, so I have to go up there and see.”
He said at the time that Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt’s staff had made him a priority — led by running backs coach Jay Graham, a fellow North Carolina native —since extending an offer to him on Feb. 1, letting him know that he was wanted in Knoxville and that the Vols were looking forward to getting him on campus.
“I talked to all of them on the phone,” Marley said in March. “They were all in the room. But I don’t really remember all of the names. They just want to get me up there, and they told me that they want me. I can come up there and play, doing what I need or wherever I need to go. And they want me to come up there and just see the environment.”
That didn’t happen before the coronavirus outbreak caused the NCAA to shut down all recruiting visits in mid-March.
Marley hasn’t been on any college visits so far this year. He said he most recently attended games at nearby North Carolina and N.C. State last season.
Because of that, he said in March that he didn’t think he would be able to put together a list of top contenders until “after I take the visits.” But he added that there were “a couple, probably,” that were already likely to be among his favorites. He named “maybe Tennessee, Carolina” before stopping to clarify that nothing had been truly decided.
At the time, Marley said he didn’t plan to decide on a college until “probably sometime during the season or, like, before.” But the Vols ultimately convinced him to make his choice sooner than expected.
The position he might play in college remains uncertain. He was a standout wide receiver during his junior season at Eastern Randolph but also took plenty of snaps in the secondary, and he has expressed interest in playing receiver in college, too.
Last season, he accounted for 26 total touchdowns, finishing with 814 receiving yards and 396 rushing yards. He also had three interceptions on defense.
“They ask me if I want to play defense, too, but I don’t know which side I want to play,” Marley said, referring to the college coaches who have been recruiting him. “I like offense. But I’ll play both if I can.”