Swinney a believer in Vols' direction

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Tennessee's recruiting success in 2014 didn't go unnoticed by Scout four-star running back Eric Swinney.

"I can see that they're trying to build a championship team over there," Swinney said of the Vols.

Pair the highly-ranked recruiting class with Tennessee's traditions and a "great" coaching staff, and Swinney dubs the Vols a "serious" contender to land his talents.

The Scout 300 prospect recently named his top five which included Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn at NFTC Atlanta.

Of his leaders, Swinney has visited Tennessee most, making the trip to Knoxville four times. He has never visited Florida State, but plans to this summer.

"Knoxville is a beautiful place up there," Swinney said.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster has been busy this spring running track at Sandy Creek (Ga.) High School, but wants to start visiting some of his leaders "soon."

Swinney said he'd "like" to trip to Tennessee and Ole Miss this spring, but adds that he has no specific plans set just yet.

The nation's No. 20 running back target is eyeing a potential fast-approaching decision date, saying he'd prefer to make his college choice before the start of his senior season.

Swinney plans to trim his favorites list down to three before he makes his announcement.

As he hits the recruiting trail once again, Swinney will be looking for a school where he can play early and for a coaching staff that can allow him "to grow as a man."

Swinney said Tennessee has both of those criteria, calling his relationship with Vols' running backs coach Robert Gillespie "awesome."

"It's good, man. It's really good," Swinney told InsideTennessee. "… It's a great relationship with coach Gillespie. He's a nice man and everything. I talk to him at least twice a week."

The last time Swinney was in Knoxville was to watch the Vols stun then-No. 9 ranked South Carolina during what he dubs a "memorable" visit. "That was real fun," he said of his last Tennessee trip.

Outside recruiting, Swinney said he's focusing on becoming a better leader for Sandy Creek this fall.

InsideTennessee's Danny Parker contributed to this report.

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