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Analysis: What is Tennessee getting in WR Isaiah Neyor?

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee made a huge splash on Saturday, picking up a commitment from one of the top names in the transfer portal. Isaiah Neyor, a 6-3 receiver from Wyoming, chose Tennessee as his home for the final three years of his eligibility.

Fresh off of a breakout season as a redshirt freshman, Neyor opted to leave Wyoming in hopes of finding a bigger stage. Before long, offers flooded in from USC, Texas, Ole Miss and several others. Tennessee was one of the first to come in with an offer, and that quick work paid off a few weeks later.

Neyor visited USC, and actually skipped visits to Tennessee and Texas. He knew where his next home would be — it was Knoxville, Tennessee.

What kind of player is Tennessee getting?

So what does Neyor bring to the table? The former 2-star prospect has size, speed and big-play ability. Neyor averaged 20 yards per catch in 2021, scoring a staggering 12 times on just 44 receptions. The long-striding, lanky receiver made a habit of getting behind secondaries, providing the Cowboys with plenty of game-changing plays last fall.

In total, Neyor went for 878 yards in 2021. As a true freshman in a shortened 2020 season, Neyor flashed with eight catches for 248 yards, good for a 31 yard average.

Highlights are hard to come by, but he’s easy to find on the official school recaps. Neyor (No. 5) flashes some of everything against Northern Illinois — speed, adjusting to the ball on the sidelines, spatial awareness and leaping ability. Each of those traits will be utilized in Josh Heupel’s vertical passing attack.

Here’s another example coming in on a big third down. Wyoming simply tosses it up to Neyor on a bit of a 50-50 ball. The fade drops in over Neyor’s shoulder, and he’s able to track, make the tough adjustment and finish the play to move the sticks. This play is harder than it looks, and Neyor makes it look routine.

Neyor had another strong performance against Boise State, making some strong grabs in the rain, while flashing some run after catch ability. His biggest play of the year came in this game — a 74 yard catch and run late in the game that resulted in a touchdown.

How does he fit into the Tennessee offense?

We know Cedric Tillman is set to return for his senior season, turning down a chance to leave for the NFL early. Frankly, Neyor and Tillman are really similar players coming from pretty similar backgrounds. Tillman was a late add to Jeremy Pruitt’s first class at Tennessee, coming in as an overlooked 3-star prospect out of Las Vegas. What Tillman did have was a 6-3 frame and speed, though the production might not have been there at the high school level.

Tillman has since been molded into an NFL prospect, and Neyor very well could follow in his footsteps. Neyor comes from Texas and likely got lost in a completely loaded state of prospects. Craig Bohl took advantage and recruited those traits, and it paid off.

With JaVonta Payton and Velus Jones Jr. heading out, Neyor should slide right into Payton’s role on the outside. That’s going to give Tennessee two 6-3 bodies with speed on the perimeter, in addition to Jalin Hyatt, who has flashed elite speed in the past. Tennessee will obviously miss Jones’ ability to do everything, but Neyor does feel like an upgrade from Payton.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker returns, so those early season growing pains that we saw in the first couple of games of the 2021 season shouldn’t happen in 2022. This Tennessee offense will be one of the best in the country, and Neyor adds a chance to get to a completely different level.

Tillman-Neyor-Hyatt-Keyton-Callaway is a really nice starting point for Kodi Burns and his receiver group. Looking out a little further, Neyor is only entering his redshirt sophomore season. This is an immediately impactful pickup with plenty of upside left to find over the next couple of seasons, at least.