Santos, who said Tennessee is one of his three finalists, visited Knoxville this week for its July camp despite early thoughts of cutting them out of the picture.
"I like the way he coaches and I like the way he played in the League. I told him I would come down there even though there were people that weren't very happy about me going to Tennessee. I told coach Sirmon I would make the trip down there, and I am glad I did."
With plenty of ground to make up in the recruitment of Scout.com's fifth-ranked middle linebacker, the Vols gave the Van, Texas, some things to ponder.
"They made my decision a lot harder that is for sure. I felt very comfortable at Tennessee. They are in the mix and they are going to make it very difficult for me that's for sure," Santos said.
Dooley and his staff have sold the Scout 300 member on the stability of the Tennessee program and it's coaching staff.
"The coaching staff, those guys are going to be there," Santos said. "Some of those guys have been offered to coach at other schools and they decided to stay at Tennessee. That is what really matters. Coach Sirmon, he is a really big part of that, he has played in the league and I got extra time to work with him. Him and I, we can really relate. He has played linebacker, I play linebacker and the way he thinks is the same way I think. We are on the same page."
Something that will play a part in the rising senior's decision will be the opportunity to make an early impact in college.
"Honestly, coach Sirmon and I talked about that. They want to put the best guys out on the field and I like that. He told me that the opportunities are there. He told me that if I want to be an All-American, he is going to hold me to the standard of an All-American. He is going to hold me to a higher standard," he said.
Not just Dalton Santos was feeling welcome at Tennessee, but the staff was also courting his father, who accompanied him on the trip.
"My dad and I have been a lot of places together," Dalton said. "It was basically the same thing everywhere you go, but he really liked it here. It is a beautiful part of the country. He really enjoyed it and enjoyed what they have to offer."
The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder was adamant that Tennessee had all the right scenery to attract him to Rocky Top.
"I enjoyed the staff and the campus," he said. "There are so many good things about the campus, it is gorgeous, the facilities are great, I have been to a lot of places, the facilities are great now, but they are just getting better. That is really cool that they are still improving there."
Santos has noted that Texas A&M is still in the mix, but it is evident that the style of football in the SEC is conducive to his football mindset.
"The SEC is a big thing to me for sure. The Big 12, they are going to spread the ball out, they are going to throw more times than run. In the SEC, that is what I do, I hit people, I come down hill, meet somebody in the hole and try to knock their head off," he said.
"In the SEC they are running the ball all the time. They are trying to pound it down your throat. And coming from a linebacker, that is what you want. You don't want them to drop back to throw it every play. You want to meet somebody in the hole and make a collision."
The Van High School Vandals will open campus in just two weeks, but Santos plans to put on a cap before then.