When will the Tennessee Volunteers football team be good again?
Hopefully, when Pig flies in Knoxville.
That will be next season as the Vols got some huge news in a small package Wednesday when Orlando (Edgewater) four-star wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard chose UT over hometown Central Florida. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound receiver's relationship with UT assistant Darin Hinshaw played a major factor in the end as he shrugged off hometown pressure to stick around and play with his brother at UCF, deciding to commit to the Vols.
Though beating the Golden Knights for a recruit doesn't look all that exciting on paper, Howard's offer sheet was borderline ridiculous. Alabama and Southern Cal both tried to swoop in and get him to give them extended looks late in the process, but he had already narrowed his list considerably. He is listed on Rivals.com with offers from UT, UCF, Cincinnati, Florida, Notre Dame, West Virginia, East Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, South Carolina, UCLA, Southern Cal, Utah and Virginia.
The Gators were thought to be a major player at one time before Howard narrowed his list. When Urban Meyer took the Ohio State job, is was rumored that one of his first recruiting calls was to Howard, who has game-changing speed and incredible play-making ability. Whether that's true or not, there was enough marquee interest in the prospect that this has to be considered a major pickup for Tennessee, especially considering that Georgia is charging hard for five-star wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was once considered a UT lean.
Howard is listed as having 4.3 speed. He had UT, UCF and Florida hats on the table when he announced at his high school today The Orlando Sentinel called Howard "probably the best play-making pass catcher in Central Florida among his Class of 2012 peers." He is the No. 3 ranked player in that publication's Central Florida Super60. He chose the Vols over UCF where his half-brother Quincy McDuffie is a junior wide receiver. But his top recruiter for the Golden Knights, David Kelly, resigned last month during an NCAA investigation.
All of those factors played a part, but it came down to the relationship he built with UT coaches and his eye-opening visit for the Georgia game.
The Vols desperately needed to upgrade their speed everywhere on the field, as was evidenced during the most recent 5-7 season. After building a very respectable start to this class, UT has gone out and addressed the need for speed recently. Three of the team's most recent commitments are legit burners -- three-star CB Daniel Gray, three-star RB Quenshaun Watson and now Howard. The Vols also have three quick linebackers committed in Khalid Henderson, Justin King and Otha Peters.
The Pig can be used in a variety of different ways on offense and in special teams. Howard can return kicks, he can run jet sweeps and end arounds, can compete for the slot receiver position with DeAnthony Arnett and pose a variety of defensive mismatches. Quite simply put, he's a weapon about which Vols fans should be excited -- and there's nobody on the team currently as fast and dynamic as him. Howard joins Drae Bowles, Jason Croom and Keithon Redding as UT wide receiver commits. Athlete Cody Blanc could play safety or wide receiver for the Vols.
Rivals rates Howard as a four-star prospect and the 46th best receiver. 247 Sports has him as a four-star and the 11th-ranked WR and 123rd ranked prospect in the nation. He is a four-star prospect on ESPN and a three-star on Scout. This is the second major recruiting coup the Vols have pulled off in as many years in Central Florida. The last time UT went in there and got a four-star commit with this kind of offer sheet was the 11th-hour surprise from Curt Maggitt, who had a terrific freshman season. Hopefully, Howard can follow suit.
Welcome to Big Orange Country, Pig! And kudos to Hinshaw and Derek Dooley for closing the deal on a potentially dynamic weapon for the Vols.