Two-time defending national champion Alabama is in a position to be very, very picky with prospects.
So when inside linebacker Gavin Bryant wasn't considered an immediate take for Nick Saban due to his grades and test scores not yet being NCAA-ready, Bryant decided to look elsewhere. His latest trip was to Knoxville this past week for the Vols' camp, and it didn't take him long after his first visit to UT to know he wanted to play there.
Bryant -- who is rated a four-star prospect on 247Sports and ESPN -- committed to Tennessee on Monday, choosing UT over claimed offers from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and others. Now, the Vols hope Bryant -- who is an elite athlete at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds -- gets qualified and that they can continue to sell him on the fact that they stood by him when other suitors wanted to wait.
A late offer from Alabama could make things interesting, but when you can sign 30 players, you have the leeway to take a gamble like this on a player of Bryant's caliber. Obviously, UT will put Bryant on an academic plan and monitor his situation closely. With the APR issues plaguing the Vols, they wouldn't take a commitment from somebody who they didn't think can cut it, so now UT fans will just wait and see if he can make it into school.
Bryant may have just been one of many elite players on the Crimson Tide's list, but he was a top target for the Vols -- who desperately need an inside linebacker or two in this class. UT is also in the top two for five-star linebacker Clifton Garrett, but most have the Vols as a distant second to LSU. In committing to the Vols, Bryant noted his strong relationship with UT linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen [his primary recruiter] and a thin depth chart as the main reasons why he elected to commit to the Vols.
He also said he'd developed a relationship with future 2015 Vol Cecil Cherry, who committed to Tennessee on Friday. While Bryant is listed as an inside linebacker on most services, he has the speed, size and versatility to play any of UT's linebacker spots. The Vols are high on outside linebackers Dillon Bates and Kevin Mouhon and already have a commitment from JUCO OLB Chris Weatherd, which makes you think Bryant may slide inside.
Regardless, this is another major pickup for UT, who looks like a play-maker on film. He's the third commitment in the past four days for UT, joining Cherry and Florida athlete Brandon Powell.
In other Tennessee recruiting news, the Vols parted ways with three-star receiver Lawrence Lee this morning the day after receiving a commitment from Powell, who plays the same [slot receiver] position. With Lee's decommitment and Bryant's pledge, the Vols are back to 16 known commitments in the 2014 class. Bryant is the nation's No. 18-ranked inside linebacker according to 247 Sports. He's also a three-star prospect on Rivals and Scout.