Bituli says Tennessee is No. 1

Daniel Bituli is the top-ranked outside linebacker in the state of Tennessee. As of Saturday, the Vols are top-ranked on his list of potential schools.

Daniel Bituli wasn’t swayed at all by the festive atmosphere surrounding Tennessee’s Orange and White Game Saturday.

It’s not that he didn’t enjoy it. On the contrary, it was hard for him to keep from smiling. The four-star Nashville Christian linebacker has just seen it so much he already knew what to expect.

“No, not really,” Bituli said when asked if he learned anything on his most recent visit to Knoxville. “I know just about everything about these fans. They love their football team. I really like that. I know just about everything I like about Tennessee. I know what to expect.”

What to expect was on full display during the Vols’ annual spring game amid a sea of orange and white that wrapped around Neyland Stadium like the trim of a massive Christmas present. More than 63,000 people filled the lower bowl to cheer Butch Jones’ third team to the conclusion of spring, but it was what happened on the field that intrigued the Nashville native the most.

“The way they run their offense and defense, the scheme in general,” he said. “I think it’s a good fit for me if I do come here. I liked it all. I definitely enjoyed the environment.”

Bituli was able to meet with the coaching staff before the game and has developed a close with relationship with linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, whom he called “his dog.”

“We talk to each other almost every day on Twitter,” he said. “We don’t just talk about football. We talk about life in general. I’ve got to know him as a person and not as a coach.”

The four-star prospect is hoping to make his decision by the end of the summer and has Tennessee and Auburn penciled in as his top two choices right now. Bituli likes the fact that Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has a history of placing guys in the NFL but made it clear Tennessee is his current No. 1.

“Mainly those two right now,” he said. “I’m not really looking at too many schools to make my decision too complicated.”

The 6-2, 200-pound product is ranked as the top outside linebacker in Tennessee and has been designated as a top priority for Butch Jones and his staff.

“(He said) that he really wants me down here,” Bituli said of Jones. “Tennessee’s a really good place to be. (He said) anything a regular coach would say, and it’s true.”

The Vols have the upper hand right now on SEC rival Auburn, and Saturday was further confirmation that Tennessee’s desire for a game-changing linebacker in the class of 2016 may get filled sooner rather than later.

“They’ve been up there (on my list) for a whole bunch of months,” Bituli said. “I just like the atmosphere down here, like I said earlier. It’s a good area. It’s a good place to be.”

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