Keir Thomas had his eyes opened on his recent official visit to Tennessee to watch the Vols blow out Vanderbilt, but it didn't have anything to do with the final score. Thomas, a Scout three-star defensive end from Miami who recently de-committed from Florida State earlier in the month, made the trip to Knoxville to take a closer look at the Vols' coaching staff and liked what he saw from both the staff and the weather.
“The coaches called me and they worked around my schedule. That made it open my eyes,” Thomas said. “They changed my expectations. It was a great visit. I thought it was going to be super cold, but it wasn’t.”
The 6-foot-1, 234-pound class of 2016 product joined 98,326 others inside Neyland Stadium for Tennessee's 53-28 win over Vanderbilt and was impressed by the atmosphere surrounding the game. Tennessee's rabid fan base helped put the Vols in a good light to one of the program's potential new defensive lineman.
“The environment was good," Thomas said. "At the game, they had loud, crazy fans. That’s a thing I like to see."
Thomas visited Tennessee once before in the summer, and his second trek to campus encompassed a wide variety of facility tours and one-one-one time with the coaching staff, including former Miami player and current Tennessee secondary coach Willie Martinez. Martinez's connection to Thomas's hometown and the staff's connection with him impressed the Miami Central star.
“They showed me that they cared for me," he said. "They knew I was up here alone without my parents. One of the coaches always stayed next to me. That was very important. They made me feel like I could come up here and have another home.”
The Vols will be up against some stiff competition in their courting of Thomas. Auburn, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Miami are all still in the mix for his talents.
“Everything’s even," Thomas said. "I want to take it slow until that time comes.”
Thomas ranks as the No. 9 defensive end in the Sunshine State and the No. 60 overall in the Scout network. With no visits on the horizon and his high school team still playing, the early enrollee will mull over his decision at length before making his college choice.
“I don’t have any (visits) planned. I’m still in the season, so everything is going to be tough," Thomas said. "It’s going to be tough. I'm just going to have to pray on it and hope I make the best decision.”