Almost every decision by Tennessee’s first-year coaching staff has been made with recruiting in mind.
That includes their continuous use of the “brick by brick” slogan and last week’s debut of the “Smokey gray” uniforms against Georgia.
So far, it all seems to be paying off.
Tennessee received commitments this week from defensive end Derek Barnett from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy and offensive lineman Dontavius Blair from Garden City (Kan.) Community College.
Blair, who chose Tennessee over Auburn and Texas A&M, is a key commitment for the Vols. They will likely have to replace the entire offensive line next season, which means Blair will be asked to help right away.
Barnett’s commitment is another example of Tennessee’s improved in-state recruiting. Three of the top four in-state prospects are committed to Tennessee, according to 247Sports.
It was coach Butch Jones and his staff who made the difference in Barnett’s decision.
“I love Coach Jones,” Barnett told Volquest.com. “Coach Jones, I feel like, is changing the program around and I trust him a lot and I think he’s a loyal coach and I really want to play for Coach Jones and no one else right now.
“I can’t explain it. I just have a good feeling he’s going to turn the program around and he’s doing that right now. I can’t explain it to you, but I just know.”
Wide receiver Josh Malone from Gallatin, Tenn., knew something was different about Tennessee when he visited Knoxville last weekend. Malone told Volquest he saw an improved game-day atmosphere at Neyland Stadium during his official visit.
“The difference is the atmosphere is a lot more … it’s just a better atmosphere and it wasn’t like going through the motions of just doing things,” Malone said. “They’re doing things the right way.”
Tennessee safety commitment Todd Kelly Jr. agreed. He attended the game during an unofficial visit.
“That game on Saturday speaks for itself,” Kelly told WNML Radio. “Even though we didn’t get the win, just the atmosphere was entirely different. I’ve never seen Neyland Stadium like that, basically in my life. It was just so loud. The fans were enthusiastic.”
Tennessee, which has 26 commitments for the 2014 class, is hoping to see more positive results from last weekend. Uncommitted defensive prospects Clifton Garrett, Dewayne Hendrix and Charles Mosley were all in attendance and expressed positive reactions to their trip to Knoxville.
Mosley, a lineman from Brighton (Tenn.) High School, named Tennessee his leader during the summer. He told Volquest this week he will likely wait to make a decision after he visits other schools, including Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.
Garrett, who has previously named LSU his leader, raved about his trip to Tennessee on social media while he was in Knoxville. The Vols will hope to continue that momentum when defensive coordinator John Jancek visits Garrett on Friday.
Tennessee hopes that trip will pay off for the Vols. Everything else seems to be working right now.
Stanley set to announce
Offensive lineman Donell Stanley from Latta (S.C.) High School will announce his decision on Friday afternoon at 1 ET.
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