It’s not the facilities, the 100,000-seat stadium, the rich tradition or the Great Smoky Mountains that has one blue-chip recruit after another praising Tennessee.
It’s the human side of things on Rocky Top that’s continuing to get a thumbs up from prospects.
Patrick Bethel, who took an official visit to Knoxville this month, is another talent following suit.
"I think it was the people," Bethel told InsideTennessee. "The people there were really genuine and welcoming. I really enjoyed that. The coaches were too. They told me what was working what I needed to hear. I really like that.”
The Scout four-star prospect and Vero Beach (Fla.) High School senior defensive end is simply in information-gathering mode before he makes his declaration. He didn’t have a gameplan for what he wanted to see out of the Southeastern Conference program.
“Nothing really in particular. It was just a visit so that I could get a feel for things and how they do stuff,” said Bethel, who also made an official visit to Auburn.
The Scout 300 member had a front-row look at Tennessee’s 27-24 win over SEC Eastern Division visitor South Carolina. Bethel kept an eye on Vols defensive ends.
"Those guys they get off the ball and they play football real well, especially (Tennessee sophomore Derek) Barnett,” said Bethel, who was making his first trip to Rocky Top. “I kind of watched him a lot because I really felt like I could learn stuff from watching him, seeing stuff that he was doing that I am not.”
Playing opposite an all-star talent like Barnett is something Bethel finds attractive about Tennessee.
“That would be cool if that were to happen,” Bethel said. “Somebody who’s been there a couple years and could teach me something. That's pretty cool. Pretty good opportunity.”
Butch Jones spent time with the Sunshine State standout.
“(Jones) told me how they felt,” Bethel said. “Actually he asked questions about me, trying to get to know me better. We were just talking to each other about football, what was in store for me at Tennessee if I was to go there. I think that really helped too."
In spite of the sit-down time with Tennessee coaches and the red-carpet treatment, the Vols didn’t ascend to the top of any list with Bethel, who speaks as though he’s wide open with his recruitment.
"They are about in the same place,” he said. “Nobody's moving up or down right now. I don't have a top or bottom. I'm trying to get to the ones that stand out to me that most so that I can get around and start investigating each of them individually and get my feel of them. It was really helpful to go up there. I liked the visit.”
Some program may receive a special present in December as Bethel said he hopes to make a declaration “maybe like at the end of next month.”
The Under Armour All-American does not have three other official visits set. Some schools in consideration aside from Auburn and Tennessee are Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami (Fla.) and Ole Miss.
Bethel said distance from Vero Beach “won’t really be” a factor in his decision, although a return unofficial visit isn’t likely. The clock is ticking as the four-star plans to enroll in January.
The 6-foot-3 ½, 256-pounder enjoys watching Jadeveon Clowney, J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and the front four for the Miami Dolphins. Coming off the edge with bad intentions is something the four-star prides himself on.
“I’m not really sure how to describe myself,” he said. “I let my coaches do that. I think I'm a pretty good pass rusher. I have confidence in my ability there and can stop the run when needed. I let my play do the talking more. When I play I got to bring some excitement and do my job to the best of my abilities.”