Last week, Virginia Tech's 2020 class made some big noise landing major targets like four-star DE Alec Bryant and three-star DEs Robert Wooten and Justin Beadles. The defensive line trio became 3 of the Hokies' 4 highest rated recruits according to 247 Sports' Composite rankings.
The other signee among those top 4? Tyree Saunders.
The 6'0'' three-star recruit from Jacksonville, Florida is the Hokies' lone wide receiver signee currently (though LaMareon James could be a name to watch).
Saunders was originally a South Florida commit, but flipped to Virginia Tech over the summer not long after the Hokies offered him at a satellite camp. Since then, Saunders has not only emerged as one of Tech's highest-rated recruits, but also arguably Tech's most prominent Twitter recruiter in the 2020 class.
Saunders' emergence began during his junior season as he was a big play machine with 54 catches for 937 yards and 13 touchdowns. Saunders received more attention this past season and had only 38 catches, but was also more explosive with 781 yards and 7 touchdowns. The most impressive stat may be how he went from averaging 17.4 yards per reception as a junior to 20.6 yards per reception this past season.
Now before we dive into his senior tape, here's what Tyree Saunders had to say about the strengths of his game and where he has the most work to do.
"My speed and my ability to think on the fly fast. Also, adjusting to the ball," Saunders said about the strengths of his game.
"Route running and just getting better separation. Think faster since the game is gonna be faster in college," Saunders said.
As you can tell, Saunders appears to have a good understanding of not only what his strengths are, but also of where he has work to do which is definitely important for any athlete.
With that said, here's a look at Saunders' senior highlight tape.
Tyree Saunders fits the profile of an outside receiver for Virginia Tech who has the speed to be versatile and used both over the top, and on underneath and screen routes. Saunders may not be the biggest wide receiver, but his tape shows how he's the type of guy that you want to create space for and let him work given his skill set, something that Tech already tries to emphasize offensively.
What stands out the most with Saunders is his speed that is superior to just about anyone on the field in his tape. According to his Hudl, Saunders has ran a 4.41 40 which isn't hard to imagine given the speed we see at times during his tape. Saunders also does seem to have a good knack for getting behind defensive backs and putting himself in good positions to be the one who has a better chance at making a play.
His solid speed plus a good burst shows as well on his punt returns as he is able to explode fairly well into the type of quick holes that Tech looks to create on screens and jet sweeps. However, his overall speed that helps him burn defenders or beat them to the edge to get space is a major plus and should help him fit well.
Another plus for Saunders is the fact that a lot of the things he does in terms of routes are similar to what Tech likely will look for him to do. His tape shows plenty of go routes along with lots of underneath routes similar to how the Hokies have used Tayvion Robinson at times this past season. Additionally, Saunders has also ran a couple back shoulder routes and curl routes that we've seen Tech mix in with their outside receivers as the season has gone along especially with Damon Hazelton.
While Saunders definitely has work to grow as a route runner, the foundation that he has is solid. Additionally, the fact that many of Saunders' primary route concepts are also similar to what he would likely run at Tech could open the door for him to play sooner.
While Saunders does project as an outside receiver, he doesn't necessarily have the size to be a 50-50 ball guy like the Hokies have with Damon Hazelton and Tre Turner. Saunders does win some balls with his toughness and effort which is definitely noteworthy, but he is not a guy that can be relied on as a jump ball guy nor should he be forced into that role in Blacksburg.
Saunders' skill set gives him the versatility to potentially work in the slot for the Hokies, but he should primarily be an outside receiver. However, Tech may use him in a hybrid blend of how they use Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson emphasizing underneath routes and screens while also using him as a big play threat on go routes.
One other thing to keep an eye on is the fact that Tyree Saunders does have experience returning punts. Tayvion Robinson has clearly solidified that job going forward for as long as he is in Blacksburg, but Saunders could be the long term heir once Robinson's time comes to an end at Virginia Tech though that won't be till after 2021 or 2022.
The biggest thing that Saunders' tape shows is the fact that he should fit extremely well in Virginia Tech's offense. When you look at the routes that Saunders runs and the ways in which he is used, you can envision him fitting well in a passing game that values creating space on the outside for speedy receivers to make plays and have winnable one-on-one matchups.
There's no doubt that Tyree Saunders is a talented receiver, but what's clearer is that Virginia Tech is an excellent fit for his skill set and his offensive background. While Saunders is likely to redshirt next season, don't be surprised to see him earn some opportunities as the season progresses because of his speed and offensive background that conceptually, has lots of similarities to Virginia Tech.