Sometimes, kids who grow up Tennessee Volunteers fans actually prove it when offered a scholarship.
Throughout the past few years, followers of UT recruiting have watched while prospects like Chaz Green [Florida], Andrew Jelks [Vanderbilt] and possibly this year again with Vonn Bell [Alabama, Ohio State] who claim to be lifelong Vols fans chose other destinations for college.
So when Dobyns-Bennett cornerback Malik Foreman received his offer last week from new UT coach Butch Jones, it didn't take him long to prove he was a Vol For Life, committing to Tennessee on Friday afternoon. Foreman -- a three-star cornerback -- craved an offer from former Vols coach Derek Dooley, but when one never came, he jumped at the opportunity to play for upstart Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.
Though he was more than content committing to the Commodores, Foreman couldn't pass up his dream opportunity. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound blazer gave Jones the coach's third verbal commitment for the 2013 class in his short tenure as head coach -- all from defensive backs, which is arguably UT's biggest need. He joins mid-term enrollees safety/nickelback Lemond Johnson and JUCO corner Riyahd Jones as Volunteer commits. Jones also got a Christmas day gift from 2014 in-state athlete Vic Wharton, who became Tennessee's first commit for next year's class.
Foreman's D-B teammate Devaun Swafford also "committed" to UT, choosing the opportunity to grayshirt with Tennessee over FCS offers such as Austin Peay, UT Chattanooga, Liberty, Furman, Murray State and Wofford. Swafford is 5-11, 180 and hopes to earn a scholarship by January 2014. He won't count against UT's 25 scholarships this season and will try to earn his 'ship over the next calendar year.
Foreman had a huge season for the Indians, telling Volquest.com that he finished with an incredible do-it-all campaign that wound up amassing 1,387 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground 287 receiving yards and four touchdowns through the air and another 675 yards, nine touchdowns and just three interceptions as a quarterback. On defense, he registered 32 tackles, five tackles for losses, broke up eight passes, forced seven fumbles, notched six interceptions and blocked one kick. .
Swafford finished with 1,332 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns along with more than 300 receiving yards and another four scores. He also amassed 25 tackles, three of them for losses, broke up two passes, intercepted five and recovered a fumble
Both kids grew up huge Vols fans and became excited when Jones discussed owning the state of Tennessee once he was hired to replace Dooley, who did nothing but burn bridges with high school prospects and coaches in-state. It didn't take long for Jones to offer -- along with primary recruiter Jay Graham. It took less time for the duo to choose Tennessee.
The pledges continue Jones' emphasis in-state. He has made a huge effort to get back into the battles for Bell, Jalen Ramsey and Corn Elder. To win a battle against James Franklin [who has done a terrific job of convincing Tennessee kids to come to Vanderbilt in his two-year tenure] is a nice shot across the bow. Foreman's pledge also addresses a major need for the Vols -- defensive back and SPEED. Foreman has been clocked at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash and 10.6 in the 100m according to 247Sports' Ryan Callahan.
Obviously, from here, the numbers are tight for Tennessee in the defensive backfield. The Vols would doubtlessly take a commitment from top targets Ramsey or Bell, but whether this ends the courtship with players like cornerback Jahmere Irvin-Sills remains to be seen. As we all know, the Vols have myriad needs, and it looks like defensive back is being addressed.
On a personal note, I think this is a can't-lose situation for Jones. I've loved Foreman as a prospect for more than a year now. I think he has elite speed, and though his offer sheet only shows committable offers from Vanderbilt, Kentucky and a handful of lower-tiered schools, he is an elite talent who gets little exposure playing in Northeast Tennessee. Foreman is one of my favorite commitments in the entire class, and he'll have the opportunity to play early and often in Knoxville.