The Scout three-star offensive tackle from Daytona Beach made the trip from Florida Saturday for Orange Carpet Day amongst a talented crew of coveted prospects like four-star wide receiver Kyle Davis and four-star Tennessee quarterback commit Jarrett Guarantano.
The camaraderie fostered between fellow players that day stood out to Tatum during his first visit to Rocky Top as he learned more about the Vols.
“Really my favorite part was just connecting with other recruits going through the same process as me and seeing how they reacted to Tennessee,” Tatum told InsideTennessee.
“Also, one of my favorite parts was just talking to the coaches in a more calm aspect and not just trying to squeeze football in and stuff. Just getting to know them was nice and seeing who I would be playing for if I were to go there.”
The No. 1-rated offensive tackle in the Sunshine State used the visit to speak in person with Butch Jones and the coaching staff, who offered him May 23. Tatum has cultivated a budding relationship with third-year offensive line coach Don Mahoney, and the two were able to sit down together during the visit to connect on a more personal level.
“I think me and him, our relationship is getting a lot stronger. Really I was just getting to know his family,” Tatum said. “I met his daughter and stuff and his other two boys and his wife. They’re just really good people.”
When it was time to talk football, Tatum said his potential new coach credited him for his ability to nimbly move his 6-foot-6, 275-pound frame.
“From the football aspect, he just tells me that they need tackles and that I would be a great fit,” Tatum said. “[He talks about] how I can control my body for being so big, but still being as athletic as I am.”
After Tennessee made his cut down to eight schools June 26 along with Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, Miami, South Carolina and N.C. State, the Vols have put themselves in a solid position for Tatum’s talents as he plans on returning to Rocky Top for an official visit.
With a narrowed down list of schools, the No. 39-ranked offensive tackle in the 2016 class will look to find a program that provides a high level of on the field and academic success in a comfortable atmosphere.
“I made the top eight so I could cut it down, so I could pay attention more to those eight schools specifically,” Tatum said. “They’re still all great programs so they all have great football. That’s a given, but [I’ll also] base my decision on academics and comfortability — how comfortable I feel on campus.”
While he searches for that type of school, the Mainland High School product will begin the research phase of his recruitment process in hopes of finding the perfect fit.
“I just want to take as many official visits that my schedule will allow and I just want to dig deeper into those programs and just look into getting in contact with people that I know that know a lot about that program,” Tatum said. “I’ll make my decision based on that.”