For Little Rock Central defensive end Fred Bledsoe, the visit to Rocky Top last weekend was a good one and a lot more than he expected from Tennessee.
"I was really surprised at just how big the stadium was and the coaches were a lot friendlier than I thought they would be," Bledsoe said. "I love the atmosphere, socially and mentally and enjoyed spending time with the players, (Tennessee head) Coach (Phil) Fulmer and Coach Steve Caldwell, the assistant coach that is recruiting me."
Bledsoe (6-5, 295), who led the Tigers to the state title, has his list narrowed down to Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Florida and Tennessee.
He was hosted in Knoxville this past weekend by Arkansans-turned-Volunteers Greg Jones (Jonesboro) and Bret Smith (Warren).
Bledsoe is aware of just how much grief those two young men took after leaving the state to go to Tennessee.
"They talked about how there was some pressure, but you just have to do what is best for you and hope that it is the right decision for you," Bledsoe related. "They didn't say anything bad about Arkansas, just talked to me about what was good about Tennessee."
Bledsoe sounded so enthused about his visit to Tennessee that one thought they might have become his leader.
"I wouldn't say that," Bledsoe said. "I just really liked everything about them, just like I like everything about Arkansas. But now I wouldn't say Tennessee leads. I would say they are both up top."
Bledsoe will not make a quick decision. In fact, he doesn't intend to announce that decision until Feb. 4, the national signing date.
Before he does that, he will visit Oklahoma State (Jan. 9-11), Arkansas (Jan. 16-18) and then likely Florida (Jan. 23-25).
He knows that Conway fullback Peyton Hillis is being held as a state hero for committing to the University of Arkansas without taking official visits elsewhere, but he doesn't want to do it that way.
"Nobody will know what I am going to do until that day," Bledsoe said. "I want it to be a big surprise. I don't want to do like Peyton (Hillis) did and just say 'yes I am going to Arkansas'. That may be where I end up, but I want to make sure it's the right place."
Bledsoe knows taking it to the last day will create some excitement or anguish depending on his decision.
"I want to bring some attention to Central Arkansas that day," Bledsoe said."
He knows Arkansas fans will probably wonder about his decision until then.
"They shouldn't worry," Bledsoe said. "They should just know that I am thinking about all my options, looking everything over and then going to make a decision. It is a very big decision for me. I want to make sure it is the right one."
Bledsoe in no hurry
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