We all know how difficult it is to recruit in the Southeastern Conference.
Just when you think you've got a kid locked up or you really did a good job with an early evaluation/offer, here comes an Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia or LSU offer and -- BOOM! -- you're out of the top group.
Well, there's some more competition heading UT's way in the world of recruiting this year, and that competition is new league member Texas A&M. The Aggies are the Vols' top competitor for the signature of three of its top targets/commitments, and aTm is at least doing a good job of getting kids to listen to its new pitch with its new home in the SEC. This past weekend, A&M hosted three top players on UT's recruiting list for its huge match-up [and loss to] Oklahoma State, including two huge Vols commitments. Though none of the players pledged to the Aggies or switched their commitments from Tennessee, they're at least giving a hard look West.
Topping that list is Van, Texas, MLB Dalton Santos, who pulled a stunner last month when he picked the Vols and his relationship with LBs coach Peter Sirmon over longtime favorite Texas A&M. This weekend, he took a surprise visit to College Station. Though the 247 A&M site caught up with Santos and made it sound like his commitment to UT may be shaky, Volquest's Austin Ward got in touch with the family, who said his commitment is firm. Though UT looks to have weathered that a little bit, Van is really close to A&M, so this one's worth watching.
The other two prospects in College Station this past weekend were UT commit Damien Jacobs and target Darrington Sentimore. The two defensive linemen have struck up a friendship and are rumored to want to play together in college. The Vols are thought to be firmly in the mix for Sentimore, but it's a bit troublesome that Jacobs is visiting around. He is still expected to take an unofficial to UT and maybe Mississippi State and told a couple different sites he's still committed to the Vols. As for Sentimore, Jacobs said they both had a great time at A&M, but there wasn't any commitment changes.
- The weekly update on perhaps UT's top remaining target, Flint (Mich.) DT Dan O'Brien continues to sound positive for the Vols. Several sources close to the family and on recruiting boards predict that UT leads Michigan for the four-star DT's services.
- It appears that UT's biggest offensive target left -- JUCO WR Coradelle Patterson, will visit Knoxville for the Vanderbilt game. The Vols also expect to have Patterson in town again in December. He visited Auburn this past weekend, loved it and loves Trooper Taylor, but UT and UGA are still the favorites here.
- Tennessee's desire to add some more speed in this class starts with Patterson, but it appears the next target is Orlando, Fla., athlete Alton "Pig" Howard. Volquest caught up with Pig, who recently eliminated Florida from his list of suitors. The 5-9, 175-pound athlete said the Vols are recruiting him a lot harder, and he received a visit from UT quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw last week. Howard is expected to visit UT for the UGA game and has UT in his top group.
- Miami commit Trent Taylor has an upcoming official visit to Miami, but if he doesn't re-affirm his commitment to the Hurricanes, Paul Fortenberry writes the Vols have to feel good about their chances for the defensive end. In the same article, Paul cites that Georgia DE Fredrick Walker may be close to receiving a UT offer.
- Though it would be the biggest recruiting coup for UT since Janzen Jackson [pre-troubles], it's worth noting that the Vols remain in the mix for five-star safety Landon Collins of Geismar, La. The Vols are thought to be at the tail end of a group that includes Alabama, LSU, Texas and Florida, but it will be a surprise if he goes anywhere but to the Tide or Tigers. UT is fighting to get an official visit.
- The Vols and DL coach Lance Thompson are still working hard on Florida jumbo DE commitment Quinteze Williams. The 6-4, 250-pound lineman seems committed to UF but says he's still listening to Tennessee.
- It was a big disappointment to Derek Dooley and UT when top tight end target Justin Meredith committed to North Carolina and Butch Davis. With Davis gone, the Vols have been working hard to get a visit from the Anderson, S.C. tight end. That work has paid off. He will visit UT for the Georgia game, and he says he wants to examine UT in case UNC gets hammered by the NCAA.
- Tennessee's top OL target, Paris (Tenn.) tackle Andrew Jelks visited Alabama this weekend and came away impressed. He said he plans on taking another official visit to Alabama after the season, so I don't know what that means about his timetable.
- Rivals.com's Chris Nee reported that South Florida four-star tight end commitment Sean Price is planning on visiting Tennessee this season.