Tennessee has made a name for itself as one of the premier destinations for elite defensive linemen since Butch Jones took over in Knoxville. The Vols have racked up signatures from big-name prospects like Derek Barnett, Kahlil McKenzie, Shy Tuttle and Jonathan Kongbo, and now their staff is looking toward the future to continue that pattern with rising senior Elijah Conliffe.
Tennessee offered the defensive end in January and is now courting the Hampton, Virginia, native to be the next pillar on its growing roster of defensive linemen. Conliffe is being recruited currently by defensive graduate assistant Nathan Ollie, who has developed a budding relationship with his hopeful prospect.
"When I was talking with coach Ollie, he was just telling me that they really like how I can give a nice pass rush," Conliffe told InsideTennessee. "That's what they're looking for. They have the run-stoppers, but they said they need more pass rushers."
The pitch seems to be working. Conliffe told IT he plans to take a visit to Knoxville Feb. 27 and is also trying to make the Orange and White Game April 16. The No. 5-ranked defensive end in the East Region admitted he wasn't extremely well-versed in the history of Tennessee, but made it a point to learn more about one of his prospective destinations.
"I knew a little bit about them, but I didn't know as much as I know now," Conliffe said. "I've done a little bit of research and learned a few things. They have an aerospace engineering program that I want to study."
The rising senior already snagged offers from Georgia, North Carolina, Penn State and others, and is looking at a school where he'll have the ability for immediate playing time in a program with a family enviornment.
"I definitely want to join a program that plays the best person at the position, that gives everybody a fair chance to play. Then, a family atmosphere," Conliffe said. "I would like to work out in a really nice facility. A really big thing is, also, they have to have a a program that draws my attention. I'm really looking for a nice school with a nice program."
The Old Dominion State native doesn't plan on staying at home to play at the next level, either.
"I don't plan on staying in-state," Conliffe told IT. "I want to go out, but I don't want to go too far."
The athletic end who takes good angles during pursuit is becoming a hot commodity among schools in the region, and the Vols are hoping to entice Conliffe with their facilties and ability to mold talented defensive linemen.
"They like my versatility," Conliffe said of Tennessee. "I can play inside all the way to a nose guard. I have the ability to play all those positions."
The class of 2017 prospect doesn't have any current favorites, choosing instead to weigh his options and soak in the recruitment process.
"At first, I did not expect any of this," he said. "It's always a blessing that I'm given the opportunity to play at these schools. It's a really, really good feeling."