Nothing should surprise Tennessee football fans at this point. When a team is 3-6 on the year and fans are having open discussions about firing the head coach, anything is on the table. Still, Tuesday night’s flip from 3-star running back Elijah Howard is a headscratcher. He posted this brief note on Twitter.
Just minutes after posting that very succinct note, he posted another, announcing a commitment to Virginia Tech.
Howard is an in-state running back who had been committed to Tennessee for over a year. He posted impressive numbers as a running back at Baylor School in Chattanooga, and the staff viewed him as an overall athlete. He was expected to get a shot at running back first, before perhaps switching positions. Howard was never projected to be a superstar—but his versatility was a real asset. Even as late as this week, he was telling reporters he would be signing early with Tennessee.
We need to be honest to readers about this flip and what we think went down.
Howard’s tweets make it obvious that whatever conversation he had with Tennessee’s staff, it did not go over well. No thanking of the coaches, no warm wishes, nothing. His commitment note to Virginia Tech being captioned “Out of sight out of mind” is similarly indicative.
Late flips do happen. Decommitments at the last moment are a known phenomenon. But a local prospect, who was committed to your school for over a year, who had virtually shut down his recruitment because of your verbal agreement, who was telling everyone he was signing with your school on the very first day of the Early Signing Period? No, those are not the type of kids who decommit on their own accord.
Instead, we have strong suspicions that the staff may have outright told him either to wait until February, or otherwise start looking for another destination. That’s the only conclusion we can think of right now. Nothing else about this flip fits the profile of a kid who simply got cold feet at the last second.
We can discuss that practice across college football, but we should all agree that a coach like Jeremy Pruitt does not have the goodwill amongst the fanbase to be toying with in-state prospects like that. It reeks of shady recruiting and dishonesty.
Is this the full, 100% true story? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We don’t know for sure.
But no matter what side the truth lay on, add it to the pile of more disappointing losses from a recruiting class, struggling to stay afloat.