On the junior-college circuit, football players don’t see terribly large crowds and few attendance numbers reach five figures.
Jordan Bonner got a taste of life in Big Orange Country in late November during an official visit to Tennessee. It was the vast sea of orange that stuck out most to the 2016 class prospect.
“Just really the atmosphere and the game,” Bonner told InsideTennessee. “The crowd was pretty amazing.”
The Scout three-star JUCO prospect was part of a crowd of 98,327 that saw Tennessee take down in-state rival Vanderbilt 53-28 in Knoxville on Nov. 28. Naturally, the Northeast Oklahoma A&M redshirt freshman kept a close eye on Tennessee defensive ends.
“I don’t know if it’s them playing or the coaching, but I mean I was watching some things that they do and I really like how they get off the ball,” Bonner said. “Like I said, I don’t know if it’s the coaching or the players, but they really do good things at that D-end position.”
The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder knew that the Tennessee defense kept opponents to a 27-percent conversion rate on third downs, which ranks No. 4 nationally. With the defender looking on from the front row, the Vols allowed Vanderbilt to convert on just 5 of 14 opportunities.
“Due to the fact that they kept getting three-and-outs was kind of ridiculous to me,” Bonner said.
The walk-away thought about a potential career on Rocky Top was well-rounded for Bonner, who considers the future of the Vols football to be rather bright.
“Everybody was just cool and nice people to be around,” he said. “The crowd was amazing. The team, the way they played was good. I’ve kind of been looking at them. They’re on the come-up. I feel like Tennessee is probably going to be in the top of the SEC if not next year then the year after. Why not ride the gravy train you know?”
At NEO in 2014, Bonner stayed across the hall from now-Tennessee starting cornerback Justin Martin. The two spoke while Bonner was in Knoxville.
“(Martin) just told me it’s really a place to be,” Bonner said. “Given that he’s a big-city guy and coming here…I mean it’s a big town for an SEC school, but he said he likes it here. He said the coaches play who deserves to play; there’s really no favoritism. He said all the coaches were cool.”
The three-star said he will take his time in making a college decision known.
“It depends on how the rest of this semester and maybe a little bit over the winter break and how it plays out,” Bonner said. “I’ll probably have my decision by January or signing day.”
The SEC Eastern Division looks like it will be the four-year university home to the Ohio native.
“The ones that are really in the race are Tennessee and Kentucky,” said Bonner, who has 14 offers from Division I programs.
If Tennessee is going to get the NEO standout’s signature on a National Letter of Intent, defensive line coach Steve Stripling is going to be a major part of the recruitment.
“I spent a lot of time with him and sat down and talked to him,” Bonner said of the third-year Vols assistant. “He seems like a real cool dude.
“Like I said when I was watching the game, the D-ends were doing some good things that I like. By him just being a cool, mellow guy I feel like he could help me out a lot as far as the defensive end position.”
The Scout three-star prospect that’s on track to graduate in May said football life in the Southeastern Conference suits him just fine.
“It’s really just speed, I mean that’s my game,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. It allows me to be able to use what I can to the best of my ability and just get out in space and just get after the quarterback.”
In 2015, Bonner played in nine games with 37 tackles, seven sacks and three tackles for loss.