Vols visit 'very appealing' to Berrios

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For months, Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has waged battle versus numerous BCS programs to get Braxton Berrios to maintain interest in the Big Orange and to get the wide receiver to check out Rocky Top.

That hard work paid off and Tennessee was rewarded a visit from the FOX Sports and Scout three-star prospect.

"It was good," Berrios said. "I told both coach (Butch) Jones and coach Z (Azzanni) that it was a little better than I expected.

"I had heard from a few recruits around that has Tennessee some great facilities and they just had a great overall program that impressed you. So, coming in I had fair expectations but everything just kind of blew me away. The people were really nice. All the coaches were great. The people around the program as far as the dean of students and athletics director, everybody...it just felt like a family. So, that was great. And, I got to see a great game. They almost pulled it out."

The unofficial visit plans to Tennessee never came to fruition over the summer but the slot target said he felt he owed it to Azzanni to schedule an official version.

"It was finally great to see him and hang with him for a weekend," Berrios said of the Vols assistant.

The first-year staff laid out a plan on how Berrios will be used in the Orange & White scheme.

"They really wanted to make sure me walking away I knew how they were going to use me and how I was going to fit into the program and they did a great job of it," Berrios said. "They showed me on film, they showed me on paper, and I walked away with no questions. I might have some this week, and I'll call coach Jones right up and he'll answer them."

Berrios saw Tennessee play No. 6 Georgia tight at Neyland Stadium with the Volunteers losing 34-31 in overtime on Saturday. The visitor showed occasional emotion from the recruiting section.

"That and everyone else around was kind of giving me crap for not being into it or not doing all that. So, I kind of got into it and cheered them on. I wanted to see an upset."

On display on how an electric slot can be utilized was what the Vols did with sophomore Alton Howard, who nearly scored a potential game-winning touchdown and accumulated over 100 all-purpose yards.

"It's very appealing," Berrios said. "I'm a slot guy, and I like to think of myself as a hybrid-type back. So, no, it was intriguing and that's exactly what they wanted to show me. They showed me on the film, they showed me on the field, and they really did their job."

Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni continues grinding on Berrios.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
The three-star wide receiver officially visited Miami (Fla.), Oregon and South Carolina previously. The trip to Rocky Top had its differences.

"The people stayed with me," he said. "It is a great group of people, and I know they are building something there (Tennessee). The facilities are great. I know Tennessee is a great program. They're on the rise, and they'll be back to where they should be in no time.

"You see the people and you see the plan and you see this recruiting class coming in and you see the team now. You've got a feeling that they can't stay down for too long."

Berrios and Tennessee freshman quarterback Riley Ferguson are both from North Carolina and both competed at the Charlotte Nike Football Training Camp in Spring 2012. Ferguson hosted Berrios on this visit.

"We knew of each other," Berrios said. "We were talking about that (NFTC) the whole time last night. I've heard he's done tremendous improvements there. I'm excited to see him on the field really."

An extremely tough decision awaits.

"It was up there, honestly," Berrios said of comparing his Vols trip to the other three. "It's hard to beat Tennessee and it's hard to beat Miami, South Carolina and Oregon for that matter. All four of those are great programs. Got a week to figure it out."

The Raleigh, N.C., resident is set to make his declaration public at Leesville Road High School on Saturday at noon.

"I haven't figured it out to be honest," Berrios said of what will be deciding factors this week. "I don't know how I'm going to be figuring it out. It's a lot to take in and just sit down and talk with my family, pray and just figure everything out and just see where I want to be for the next four years of my life."

Berrios, rated the third best pass catcher in North Carolina, figures to be a matchup nightmare as a slot receiver in coordinator Mike Bajakian's offense if the Vols can fend off the Ducks and Hurricanes.

At The Opening in July, Berrios measured in a 5 feet 9, 180 pounds and clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.52 seconds with an event-winning 3.81-second shuttle time.

Berrios has missed recent games for Leesville (4-2) with a left foot injury suffered during a 34-21 loss to Panther Creek. He does it all for the Pride, including holding down quarterback duties this season. Through the first three games, Berrios averaged 154 yards rushing.

On Friday, Leesville plays host to Sanderson. Berrios plans to enroll at the school of his choice in January.

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the FOX Sports NEXT team July 2011.
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