First impressions make a difference.
From the moment Baylen Buchanan stepped foot on Tennessee’s campus in his first recruiting trip the summer before his junior year at Peachtree Ridge (Ga.) High School, he had an affection for Big Orange Country.
“We toured the whole campus, the facilities, went to a football practice,” Buchanan told InsideTennessee. “That’s when I fell in love with the school.”
Moments after Tennessee’s 45-6 win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, Buchanan made his commitment to the Volunteers public. The Scout three-star prospect joined offensive tackle Nathan Niehaus nearly in unison that afternoon with their pledges, moving Tennessee’s class to a nearly full 17 commits.
“It’s overwhelming just knowing that I’m going to be playing in one of the best conferences around with the best competition and stay close to home,” Buchanan said. “You can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Baylen's father is Ray Buchanan, who played 12 seasons in the National Football League and finished with 47 interceptions and 205 tackles. Ray played his college football at Louisville, which is where Baylen was once committed, and he was the person who took his son on that initial recruiting visit.
“He wants to see me happy,” Baylen said of his father. “He thought it was a great idea as well. He was very supportive throughout the whole thing. He really thought it couldn’t get no better than (Tennessee) with it being in one of the best conferences and close to home.”
The future Vol watched Team 119 end its season victorious to push its record to 9-4. The announced attendance at Raymond James Stadium was 53,202.
“That was great,” said Buchanan of the Vols’ beating No. 13 Northwestern. “That was a big turnout, too, for it to be an away game.
“Oh my gosh. They were just clicking on all cylinders. They were playing fast. They just looked good. I can’t really describe it; it was a good win.”
Buchanan plays cornerback at Peachtree Ridge and is teammates with Scout five-star prospects and prime Tennessee targets in junior athlete D’Angelo Gibbs and senior safety Nigel Warrior. The trio have made their share of unofficial visits to Rocky Top.
“We’ve all really been up there a lot of times,” Buchanan said with a laugh. “I know I’ve been up there a lot of times. We all kind of already know what it’s all about. I love it up there. Just the environment, I just love the vibe just from the people and the crowd at the games and just the academics. They just really care about you, you know?”
Tennessee went from 5-7 in coach Butch Jones’ first year to 7-6 and a TaxSlayer Bowl win to Friday’s blowout of a Big Ten foe.
“I think it’s going to be a bright future,” Buchanan said. “Coach is turning the program around, and I’m just glad to be a part of it. We’re going to have a lot of success.”
Willie Martinez is Tennessee’s defensive backs coach and will provide guidance to Buchanan on the next level.
“Coach Martinez, he’s a great dude,” Buchanan said of his future position coach. “He’s very honest with you. The whole coaching staff is pretty honest. They’re great people. They know what they’re talking about. They’re about to turn the whole program around. That’s kind of been their message to me. I know (Martinez) wants guys that want to come in and play. If you come in and you’re not even ready for defense, you’re going to play special teams. But, he wants all his players to play. I know I’m going to come in hungry and try to earn a spot and play early.”
The corner with 4.60 speed has no plans to see other schools this January. He took officials to Louisville and Oklahoma.
“This is it. It was a long process. I’ve got my mind made up. I’m glad, too,” said Buchanan, who ranks as the No. 49 cornerback in the 2016 class.
The official visit to Tennessee will come “probably on the 15th. I haven’t set it up yet.”
With his orange-clad future all but cemented, Buchanan plans to take a classy approach and let other programs know of his decision.
“That’s about to be the next step,” he said. “I’m about to call everybody and thank them for recruiting me because I’m very gracious that God put me in this position. So I’ve really got to thank them for giving me the time.”
Buchanan’s senior season with Peachtree Ridge came to a close in the second round of the 2015 GHSA Class AAAAAA state playoffs with a 28-9 loss to Westlake.