After signing Scout four-star prospects Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf to go with three-star conversion Neiko Creamer in its 2014 class, Tennessee has a commitment from three-star and Murfreesboro native Kyle Oliver for the 2015 group, the staff figures to aim extremely high in 2016.
Look no higher than Devante Brooks.
Although the Scout three-star is 7 1/2 hours from Knoxville, Brooks made his way south from Washington, D.C., in mid-October to see Tennessee beat up Chattanooga 45-10.
That unofficial visit provided plenty of education on aspects of the program on Rocky Top that he’d only heard about previously.
“It’s a great place,” the St. John’s standout told InsideTennessee. “The stadium is beautiful. Loved being around the coaches; I could really feel that connection they’ve had for 8 years together. I could feel that connection they have and that bond they have. Just seems like a welcoming place. Their fan base is great, and I love their student-athletes. I didn’t feel that anywhere else yet. It was just overall a great experience. I loved being there, and I definitely hope to come back for a bigger game.”
Tight ends coach Mark Elder is in charge of getting Brooks to ink with the Big Orange.
“I love that dude,” Brooks said of Elder. “I love talking to him. It was great finally seeing him again after a long time. He recruits me the hardest out of any school right now. Me and him talk almost daily. I can really tell that he’s really fired up to recruit me. That really shows that he’s excited about me and gets me excited about Tennessee. Me and him have a great relationship and we’re going to keep building on that relationship and see how it goes from here.”
Elder showed Brooks around Peyton Manning Locker Room after the victory and introduced the prospect to the current Vols tight ends.
“After the game when all the recruits went to the locker room, he introduced me to all of them,” Brooks said. “Big dudes! I was kind of surprised. I thought I was a big guy but looking at them, felt a little small. I don’t know if it was the cleats but everybody was taller than me.”
A comfortable lead with over a quarter and a half to play meant the Vols took the wind out of the sails offensively. Thus, Brooks didn’t get a great look at just how much Tennessee uses its tight ends.
“That game wasn’t really a game where the tight end would be used much,” Brooks said. “When I talked to coach Elder afterwards he told me today was not the day. He showed me some film after the game. We sat down one-on-one with my parents and we just talked. He showed us a little bit of film. I could see they use their tight ends a lot. It’s not like they’re just barely using them. They’re very active in their offense. Watching the past games — the Florida game, the Georgia game and all that — I could tell the tight ends are active and that’s very attractive to me I guess you could say. That really sticks out to me because I want to be used in the blocking and as a wide receiver, basically. It was good to see that you know. That game wasn’t the best game but I could tell they use their tight ends a lot, especially with the rotations.”
The trip would not have been complete without the Tennessee target sitting down with coach Butch Jones.
“I talked to him a little bit before the game and after the game,” Brooks said of the second-year head man.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder has the tools to be a playmaker in the Tennessee offense — and he looks up to one of the best of all time.
“Tennessee alum Jason Witten, I look up to him a lot,” Brooks said. “That’s basically the role model, the kind of tight end I want to be — the next Jason Witten. That’s someone I really look up to, and he’s part of my favorite team, too, the Cowboys.”
While he has length and talent, the junior from the nation’s capitol says he wants to get to be “at least 240-25” before enrolling.
Brooks has well over a year before he needs to make a decision on a school. Tennessee’s top competition figures to be schools closer to home.
“I’m kind of being patient,” he said. “It’s really right now I guess based off of who’s recruiting me the hardest. Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, they’ve been keeping in frequent contact with me. A little bit Kentucky as well.
“I don’t really have a top 5 yet. I’ll probably narrow it down the beginning of my senior season and midway through my senior season I’ll narrow it down to five.”