Why Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt was snubbed by her hometown of South Carolina

Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, arguably the best wide receiver in college football, was considered too small to play at the University of South Carolina, which is 17 miles from his high school.

That’s why most people, including Hyatt and his father, believe he wasn’t offered a scholarship by the Gamecocks.

Another theory is that Hyatt wouldn’t have picked South Carolina, so coach Will Muschamp tried to save face by not even trying to sign him. Hyatt committed to Virginia Tech and eventually signed with Tennessee.

Or it’s because Hyatt didn’t do well at a recruit camp, which somehow negated his blistering speed and breathtaking performances at state title games at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium. That narrative is still floating around the Gamecocks program two years after Muschamp’s sacking.

Current South Carolina coach Shane Beamer joked that he’s still paying for Muschamp’s mistakes.

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“Jalin Hyatt is a phenomenal football player. And I was a coach at the University of Oklahoma when he graduated and decided to go to Tennessee,” Beamer said. “I hope people know that. I’ve certainly heard from people what an idiot I am (for) not recruiting Jalin Hyatt.”

Regardless of the reason, Hyatt was snubbed by the school he considered his hometown. And now he’ll return there when No. 5 Tennessee (9-1, 5-1 SEC) plays South Carolina (6-4, 3-4) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Tennessee did not make Hyatt available for interviews this week. But South Carolina’s recruiting blunder was already well known, and Hyatt has already spoken out about it.

“It was a shame not to get an offer from your hometown school because I feel like they should be the first to offer,” Hyatt told ESPN.com. “But they never did, and I know why. Things are going as they should and I’m glad they thought I was too small.

“It helped bring me here (to Tennessee) and see what I would have missed.”

“What Jalin is doing now is nothing new”

Hyatt, a junior and predicted early round NFL draft pick, is a front-runner for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s top wide receiver.

Hyatt leads FBS with 15 touchdown catches, already a single-season record in Tennessee. His 1,116 yards ranks second nationally, and he’s just 182 yards from Robert Meachem’s year-old vols record (1,298).

Hyatt equaled the single-game SEC record with five TD catches in the win over Alabama. And he was the nation’s top big-play receiver, leading FBS with catches of at least 30 yards (14), 40 yards (10), 50 yards (6), and 60 yards (4).

That breakaway ability was demonstrated at Dutch Fork High in Irmo, South Carolina, when Hyatt clocked a 4.31 second 40-yard run on a recruit combine.

Hyatt has been rated 4 stars by 247Sports Composite and has been offered a scholarship by several Power 5 schools. This included Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas in the SEC.

But he was in the South Carolina backyard.

Hyatt won four straight state titles at Dutch Fork and became the Powerhouse program’s all-time receiver. In the 2019 State Championship Game at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium, he caught three TD passes, including the game winner in overtime.

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“Jalin was always a big game player and he was always the fastest player on the field,” said Ty Olenchuk, Hyatt’s high school quarterback and Clemson pitcher. “When I played with him, every time the game or moment was at its biggest – fourth quarter of a big game, state championship – he would come up to me and say, ‘I want the ball.’

“What Jalin is doing now is nothing new.”

Why Hyatt’s Dad Is Still Talking To Will Muschamp

Hyatt’s father has heard several reasons for South Carolina’s snub.

“I can only imagine that Jalin was too young at the time,” said Jamie Hyatt.

Hyatt weighed 153 pounds when South Carolina recruited him. He signed with Tennessee in December 2019 as a 6-foot-164-pounder.

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“Maybe they didn’t think Jalin was going to come (to South Carolina), so they didn’t want to officially offer him because they didn’t want to be rejected by the hometown kid,” Jamie Hyatt continued. “I think it was a bit more about brand protection, but I don’t know that.”

Jamie Hyatt said he didn’t take it personally that South Carolina had lost his son. He is still on good terms with Muschamp and former South Carolina wide receiver coach Bryan McClendon. They are both in Georgia recruiting Hyatt’s younger brother, wide receiver Devin Hyatt.

“I know Muschamp and I’m meeting him in Georgia,” said Jamie Hyatt. “It’s all good. We shake hands. I don’t hold grudges against anyone and I don’t worry about them too much anymore.”

Why Clemson Hyatt didn’t offer either

Clemson, 120 miles from Irmo, also did not offer Hyatt a scholarship.

But the Tigers played back-to-back national title fights in Hyatt’s final two seasons of high school, so they could afford to be picky. Hyatt was a fast, skinny receiver, but they wanted a big physical wideout.

“At this time, Clemson could be more selective,” Jamie Hyatt said. “They just needed two wide receivers (in the 2020 recruit class) and they were looking for a specific body type.

“I’ve learned that it’s not personal. It’s all about business.”

Hyatt goes home to meet gamecocks

Hyatt made its collegiate debut in South Carolina when Tennessee defeated the Gamecocks 31-27 in the 2020 season opener. But he played sparingly and made no reception.

Last season, Hyatt made a TD catch in Tennessee’s 45-20 home win over South Carolina. It was one of two TDs he scored in his sophomore season, but his influence exploded that year.

Hyatt helped Tennessee rank #1 in offense and total offense ratings. And he was a favorite target of quarterback Hendon Hooker, a Heisman Trophy nominee.

“Every time you go home to play, it’s a great feeling. And J. Hyatt plays with a chip on its shoulder week after week,” Hooker said. “His competitive fire is amazing and I just want to keep up with him when we’re out there together.

“It’s a cool thing to go to your hometown and have family and friends there and then put on a show. So I’m excited to see Hyatt doing its thing.”

Reach Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter @AdamSparks.