Jonathan Echol Recently, he envisioned making a relatively early college decision, perhaps just after his junior season. But his first visit to Tennessee convinced him he was ready to decide on a school even sooner than expected.
The Class of 2024 five-star edge rusher from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. announced Monday that he has signed to the Vols. He chose Tennessee over scholarship offers from at least 30 other schools — including Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Miami — after a three-day visit to the Vols over the weekend of June 25.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Echos gave Tennessee its first commitment for the Class of 2024. He said he informed Alex Goleshoffensive coordinator and tight ends coach for the Vols, on his decision just over a week ago, just after he wrapped up his weekend stint in Knoxville.
“The first person I told about this was Coach Golesh,” he told GoVols247 before publicly announcing his decision. “He loved it. Just wanted me to be part of the family, want to build the class around me.”
Echols is rated a Five Star Contender on the industry-produced 247Sports Composite, where he is ranked #30 overall player and #4 athlete in the 2024 class. He is a four-star prospect, ranked the #5 overall player and #1 athlete in the class of 2024 and a rising junior #3 out of Florida State, according to analysts at 247Sports.
“Me and my family just feel like it’s a great fit for me,” he said. “Being able to talk to Coach G, only he’s the OC and my positional coach, it’s just going to be great for me when that’s him.
“And I just loved it — loved everything.”
While Echols had never been to the Tennessee campus before arriving in Knoxville on June 24, he said the Vols recruited him harder than any other team even before the visit and made him feel wanted while he was on campus.
“I felt really loved and only the love of the coaching staff,” he said. “The people around you are great people. The facilities were fantastic and just being able to be with these people is just a great fit. Not that far from home.”
Echols played Heard County High School in Franklin, Georgia during his sophomore season before announcing in late January that he was transferring to IMG Academy.
Tennessee made him an offer on Dec. 1, and he said the Vols “most definitely” spoke to him of the teams pursuing him. He said the way they recruited him was a factor in his decision, but he never expected to be ready to pick a school before his junior season started.
“I was just blown away by the visit,” Echols said. “Everything hit me at once.”
He said he likes that the Vols “just have strong offense and are able to use the tight end in a variety of ways,” along with “the culture” of their program. He said he was also excited about “Me and Ethan Davis — two tight ends they really wanted — just being able to be on the field at the same time,” referring to Tennessee’s Class of 2023 four-star tight end commitment from Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Georgia.
Echols said he met Davis, who was on an official visit with the Vols at the time, during his three-day stay in Tennessee.
Some teams have recruited Echols, who was a standout two-way player in Heard County, as a possible defensive end or outside linebacker. But he said he recently said, “To most coaches I want to play tight end, so mostly they’re trying to recruit me to be tight end.”
He worked as a tight end during Tennessee’s Night at Neyland Camp on June 26, and the Vols liked what they saw of him. He said they made it clear to him why they stayed in frequent contact with him, spearheaded by a senior offensive analyst Max ThurmondGolesh, student tight ends coach Alex Fagan and offensive research assistant jack taylor.
“They think I’m the best player in the country,” Echols said.
With Early Signing Day for the Class of 2024 still more than 18 months away, he said he may not be ready to fully halt his recruitment just yet. But he feels good about his decision.
“I’ll probably make a few more visits here and there,” Echols said. “I’ve already spoken to the coaching staff about it. They just want me to always know where my home is.”