Chris Daniels’ relationship with Tennessee doesn’t go back for years and years but the staff on Rocky Top made up considerable ground over the weekend.
The Trinity (Texas) High School defensive tackle and Scout No. 146 prospect in the 2016 class took an official visit to Knoxville, arriving early Saturday and departing mid-afternoon Sunday.
“Tennessee, this is my first SEC visit, so I was already expecting a very good impression and my Dad was telling me it was going to be nice,” Daniels told InsideTennessee. “So I came up here. It was kind of overwhelming at first seeing everything and how the facilities were. Even the people here, I got off the plane and people were taking pictures of me, saying ‘Rocky Top’ and ‘Go Vols.’ I was like, ‘This is crazy.’”
The Lone Star State’s No. 4-ranked defensive tackle hasn’t been expected to stray far from home for college but coach Butch Jones and staff got Daniels to express interest late in the process.
“I’ve never been here before,” Daniels said. “The SEC, the name speaks for itself and just the whole program.
“I’ve got very high interest in Tennessee. I’m going to talk to my father about everything and let him know what I know.
“They (Tennessee) have the same shot as everybody else. If my family wants to come here, I’m going to come here, even if it’s 12 hours away.”
The Vol For Life program is what stuck out the most to him.
“VFL, that’s something that was pretty cool that a lot of the guys were telling me about and the connection that it has,” Daniels said.
Tennessee doesn’t presently have a defensive tackle coming from the prep ranks in the 2016 class. The four-star prospect could fill that void.
“They were saying they only have three spots open for 1-2 D-tackles, so to let them know if I’m really, really interested. I told them I am,” Daniels said.
Distance isn’t much of a factor in the decision making.
“Anywhere, whatever is best for me and my family,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter where I play at.”
The Scout No. 1 player in the 2015 class and Vols freshman Kahlil McKenzie was Daniels’ player host.
“He was real cool, down to earth,” Daniels said. “He’s just like my people back at home. If I was to come here, he would be one of my closest dudes. I can just tell.”
Defensive line coach Steve Stripling is Tennessee’s lead recruiter with the 6-foot-3 ½, 299-pounder. Butch Jones is expected to head to Euless, Texas, next week for an in-home visit.
Daniels said he is “real comfortable” around the Orange & White staff: “I can just be sitting down in the office and just chilling, talking about anything, just laughing, joking. It was kind of like they were my high school coaches. It was real cool.”
Aside from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M are the other finalists. The time on The Hill caused Daniels to balk on an upcoming declaration.
“It was supposed to be next Saturday because they wanted me to commit to where I was going to go but I have an official visit. So, I’ll probably just do it on signing day,” said Daniels, who is heading College Station on Jan. 29.
“They’re kind of all even,” Daniels said of his final group.