Two at the top for Daniel Bituli

The prep football talent in the Volunteer State continues to improve, which means it's going to get tougher for Tennessee coaches to keep Southeastern Conference opponents from taking players out of the state. Read about a Scout four-star junior linebacker hearing from several SEC programs.

Coaching staffs residing in Knoxville and Oxford continue go head-to-head for Volunteer State products.

Add Daniel Bituli to the list of ongoing battles between Southeastern Conference foes Ole Miss and Tennessee.

The Nashville Christian School standout rates by Scout as the best in-state linebacker in the 2016 class, and he's drawn SEC level attention for over a year already.

“Tennessee and Ole Miss are at the top right now,” Bituli said. “I haven’t really been listening to other schools at the moment. I haven’t gone to any games, but I do plan on going to Tennessee and Ole Miss games pretty soon.”

It wouldn’t be hard for any Vols fan or recruiting analyst to guess which Tennessee coach has helped the Big Orange to Bituli’s top group. Recruiting whiz and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen has led the way in Tennessee’s pursuit of the mid-state product.

“(Thigpen) likes how big I could grow and how good of an outside linebacker I could be,” Bituli said. “(He tells me) I’ve got a long way until then and he said that to go to Tennessee I could really reach my full potential. So, I really appreciate that about him. I have nothing but respect for coach Thigpen.”

Ranked as the No. 12 outside linebacker and No. 163 overall prospect for his class, Bituli says Thigpen and Tennessee are recruiting him at an “eight out of 10” in terms of intensity.

(Danny Parker/

Unfortunately for the staff on Rocky Top, he gave Ole Miss a “10 out of 10.”

Bituli puts the Rebels “just a little bit” ahead of the Vols right now in his recruitment. According to the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, third-year coach Hugh Freeze and his Ole Miss staff have clearly made him an early priority.

“I just feel comfortable with the Ole Miss coaches because they keep in contact with me almost every day,” the four-star prospect said. “I really appreciate that about them, that’s why I think they’re on top right now.”

Though the race for Bituli appears to be a two-team battle, the list of suitors may swell. The talented 'backer recently added a scholarship offer from fellow Southeastern Conference school and league powerhouse LSU. If Tennessee and Ole Miss hope to stay atop the perch for Bituli, both schools will have to fight for it.

In order to do so, both will need to continue getting him on campus. When the top prospect will make a trip to Knoxville is anybody’s guess as of now.

“I’m not sure yet. I usually work during the weekends,” Bituli said. “Whenever I have a time I can go I will try to get down (to Tennessee).”

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