Bridges: 'Coach Butch Jones was ecstatic'

Breaking news made its way to Rocky Top on a rainy Sunday as one of the most highly recruited junior linebackers in the South gave Tennessee coaches his commitment. Read more about one of the Peach State's best juniors, Emanuel Bridges.

One trip to Tennessee for Emanuel Bridges had him seeing orange. A second trip made a commitment official.

The linebacker out of Newnan (Ga.) High School told the coaching staff in Knoxville of his decision Sunday morning.

“I felt like it was a good spot for me and my family to go,” Bridges told InsideTennessee. “I actually felt like this last week but my family wasn’t up there with me. So I had to make sure they was OK with it and they felt like it was a place away from home and they was. I really appreciate the coaches. I have a really great bond with all the coaches actually. Just felt like home to me.”

The defender becomes the Volunteers’ sixth pledge in the 2016 class, joining three-star cornerback Dorian Banks, four-star offensive tackle Ryan Johnson, four-star quarterback Austin Kendall, three-star cornerback Marquill Osborne, three-star cornerback Bailey Phillips.

“It feels great, it feels great,” Bridges said. “Being from the South, it’s a big thing to play in the SEC. So, I feel like I accomplished some things. We’re going to get Tennessee on the right track and get them as one of the top programs in the country up there with Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.”

Tennessee’s second-year head coach didn’t take Sunday’s news sitting down.

“Coach Butch Jones was ecstatic,” Bridges said. “He just hopped out of his seat, gave my Dad a big hug, told me he was glad we’re part of the family, and I was a big part of their recruiting class, and I was one of their top guys. I really appreciate him. They told me about everybody they had committed and all that, so I felt like a part of the family.”

Bridges is the highest-rated Scout three-star middle linebacker in the ’16 class and No. 9 in the nation positionally. He was in attendance at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville to see the Big Orange beat Kentucky 50-16 and lose to Missouri 29-21.

“I went to the one (game) last week and felt like it was great. I came back from there. Still felt the same way. So I just went ahead and committed,” said Bridges, who was joined by family on Saturday’s trip.

Getting Momma on board with her teenager’s decision is key in the recruiting process. No issues there for Tennessee.

“She loved it,” Bridges said. “She just loved the atmosphere and how the fans were. She really loved it. If she could have she would have called it home with me right then and there.”

Bridges was able to get an idea of what Peyton Manning Locker Room is like both after a loss and a win.

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“Mostly I wanted to see how they react after a loss because I seen how they react after a win. They were still talkative after the loss, talking about how they’ve got to get after Vanderbilt to be bowl eligible. I really liked that. They didn’t get down just because they lost one game.”

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder selected Tennessee over scholarship offers from schools such as Alabama, Clemson, Louisville, Michigan State, Ole Miss and Wisconsin. Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen leads the charge to get the Georgian in an orange and white uniform.

“He’s great,” Bridges said of the second-year Tennessee assistant. “Him and my Dad have a great time and they just clicked as soon as they met each other. I love him. He keeps it 100 with you, going to let you know what’s going to happen.”

Scout places the new commit as the No. 287 junior prospect in the country and the No. 1 middle ‘backer in the Peach State.

“I’m not a vey stiff linebacker; I’m very mobile,” Bridges said. “I can run around, I can stop the play behind the line, I can be physical, I can be everything you need in a linebacker really. If you need somebody to be physical, I can do that. If you need somebody to blitz off the edge, I can do that.”

Clemson and Ole Miss were with the Vols in the tackler’s top 3.

“I’m still looking around because you never know what could happen like a coach firing like it did at Florida. So, I’m not going to just cut off my recruitment. One of the coaches could get fired or something. I’m still solid to Tennessee.”

Bridges’ junior season at Newnan came to a close earlier this month with a loss to four-star senior prospect D’Andre Walker’s Langston Hughes team. The Tennessee commit plans to take part in the Georgia Junior Bowl on Dec. 30 and will play for Team Commitment, which will be led by former Vols great Jamal Lewis.

“I’m definitely looking forward to that, doing a little recruiting, trying to get Tennessee’s name mentioned,” Bridges said.

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