Tennessee recruiting is a forest fire

Marvin Westwestwords

Tennessee football recruiting addicts are in Fourth of May wonderland, floating high above the clouds, with an unobstructed view of championships to come.

Back on Earth, the Volunteers are in a sizzling hot streak, maybe a forest fire. They have been cooking all around, and sweeping up commitments from prize prospects. Ordinary fans, pondering whether to purchase season tickets for a season that seems uncertain, are truly thrilled. Rivals are supposedly in shock.

Tennessee influence spread into Alabama and inspired a pledge from the No. 1 player in that state, five-star defensive end Dylan Brooks of Roanoke.

Four-star safety Kamar Wilcoxson of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., said he’s coming to Tennessee.

Julian Nixon, four-star receiver from Roswell, Ga., said “me too, count me in.”

Terrence Lewis, five-star linebacker from Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory in Hollywood, Fla., chose Tennessee. Lewis is the No. 10 overall player in high school football in the United States of America. He is the No. 1 outside linebacker prospect.

Tiyon Evans, 5-9 and 225, a bowling ball disguised as a running back, gave his word. He’s originally from Hartsville, S.C., currently aligned with Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He is said to be the No. 1, 2 or 3 junior college prospect in the country.

The Vols got a pledge from Tallahassee defensive back De’Shawn Rucker. Left standing at the altar were Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and hometown Florida State.

Scouting report: “Speed, versatility, exceptional play-making ability and more speed, as in 4.38 in the 40.”

Cody Brown, 6-0 and 227, is a four-star running back (20 touchdowns last season) from Lilburn, Ga. He is ranked No. 9 in the country at his position.

Brown said it was very convincing to hear from every one of Tennessee’s commitments – plus freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey, self-appointed chair of the Volunteer recruiting committee.

“They’ve been telling me they need me to complete the team.”

Coupled with 10 previous commitments, this outburst has triggered action words: Wow! Amazing! Sensational!

Allow us to add a pinch of sobering perspective. These are all verbal agreements. The first opportunity to sign binding contracts will be in December. For the next seven months, mean-spirited competitors will snuggle in close and whisper sweet nothings to Tennessee recruits. Sincerity will be tested. If any of these future Vols listen, they will be urged to change their minds.

The technique is called “flipping” and involves a simple de-commitment, a few thousand broken hearts, a new deal, a different address.

There is a defense against such transgressions. Coaches can continue to recruit those they have already recruited. It’s just hours and effort and sleepless nights.

This is an exciting time to be 18 years old. The world and all that is in it can be theirs for the taking. Instant gratification is still frowned on by the older generation but it is an accepted appetite for the young, a way of life.

Go for it!

Commitments? They are flexible. Check the divorce rate. Too many marriages are like tryout camps. The transfer portal is another example. Amazing how many seniors think the grass is greener elsewhere.

Write the list of Tennessee’s 15 football commitments in pencil, just in case the list changes. Most will hold. Their word will be their bond. They will sign when signing time comes. Auburn and Florida are threats to recover one or two.

Something else could happen. De-commitments are not limited to prep prospects. Coaches sometimes change their minds, withdraw promised scholarships and award them to someone with even greater promise.

Dirty pool? College recruiting is a bloody jungle and no place for the faint of heart. Ethics are often adjustable, as needed. In too many cases, the summation is say and do whatever it takes but try not attract NCAA investigators.

“Committed” brings to mind some wonderful stories. Here’s one.

Five or six years ago, Mackensie Alexander, outstanding cornerback from Immokalee, Fla., committed to Tennessee. Butch said hooray!

Mac had not even visited but he said everything about Tennessee was great. He loved it. He wanted to play SEC football, to compete against the best. Tennessee offered that opportunity.

“I have a great relationship with the staff. I am jacked up right now, and can’t wait to get up there.”

Mackensie said he was, as of that very moment, a bold advocate and salesman for the Volunteers. He would persuade others to join him in Big Orange Country.

Coaches at other schools did not buy a single slice of that baloney. They stepped up their recruitment of Alexander. He was impressed. He said he really enjoyed talking with Nick Saban.

“I just can’t believe all the new interest, especially from a school like Alabama. I have big, big thoughts on Alabama right now.”

Incidentally, Alexander said he remained committed to the Volunteers.

That may have been the least committed commitment in history. Mackenzie soon came officially unglued. He said he might consider Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Southern Cal, Miami and Ole Miss. He said he would really like to visit Ohio State.

Oh, incidentally 2, Mackensie said he might keep talking with Tennessee.

He didn’t talk long. He signed with Clemson. The Vols struggled on without him. So goes recruiting.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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