One of the biggest hurdles most college programs face when targeting a highly sought-after recruit is putting all the working parts in place to get him on campus for a visit. It makes a prospect’s decision that much harder after he sees the shiny new facilities, the cavernous weight rooms and the enormous stadiums most prosperous programs provide.
Securing a visit means schools are able to showcase their positive attributes, which is why Butch Jones and his staff must be pretty excited to hear Scout 300 running back Devwah Whaley plans to make the trip to Knoxville this summer.
Whaley wasn’t very familiar with Tennessee when he received an offer from the Vols earlier this year, yet the No. 9 overall running back prospect in the class of 2016 is still considering making his home on Rocky Top.
“It was a pretty big deal (when I received the offer),” he said. “I didn’t know a lot about them. I knew a little bit about them but I didn’t really know too much about them.
The Beaumont, Texas, blue chip is a four-star recruit ranked as the 156th best overall player in the class of 2016. Whaley’s offer list has ballooned in recent months to feature six SEC teams, including Alabama and Georgia, along with more than a dozen other programs across six conferences.
With Whaley committed to an unofficial visit, the Vols must feel better about their chances. Running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Robert Gillespie has pegged the 6-0, 195-pound junior as a potential must-have recruit, and Gillespie constantly converses with Whaley on a number of subjects.
“He says a lot. We have good conversations,” Whaley said. “We have a good relationship and we’re just going to keep going on with that. He just says I’m a special back and if I go there, I’ll be successful.”
Whaley rushed for 1,246 yards and 11 touchdowns his junior season, earning 22-5A All-District honors in the process. Coaches believe his big body, elusive speed and fluid stride will translate well to the next level.
“Mainly coaches say my size and my speed,” he told InsideTennessee on what others believe to be his best attribute. “The way I hit the hole, my vision, things like that. They say a lot.”
Whaley wouldn’t discuss who his favorites were at the moment, but in late March he told Scout Oklahoma was slightly in the lead. Texas A&M has also made a strong push and is projected to be at the top of his list That list is bound to fluctuate as the year progresses, but his criteria in searching for the right school will not. The No. 2 ranked Texas running back wants a place that can give him the total package — academics, tradition and, most importantly, wins.
“(I’m looking for) the coaching staff, the environment,” Whaley said. “Once I get up to the campus, (I'll see) how I feel, and just the tradition is also another thing. Then the program — like I’ve said, (I want) a winning program.”