MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The relationship between Tennessee’s coaching staff and Gentry Bonds continues to strengthen as Saturday the junior defensive back made his third visit to Knoxville.
The walk-away feel is that the Scout three-star cornerback from the 2017 class has the Big Orange as a team that’s caught Bonds’ eye with a decision coming in less than 11 months.
“I feel like it’s a good fit and somewhere I can play early,” Bonds told InsideTennessee. “In-state school, not too far from home.”
The Riverdale (Tenn.) High School defender was part of an in-state-laden group of junior visitors that spent time with the Tennessee coaches and players while also getting a taste of life on The Hill be touring Neyland Stadium and taking in a men’s basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I think it went really well,” said Bonds, who doesn’t presently have future visits planned. “It was a good experience for me to get to know the coaches a little bit more. We’ve obviously been talking. It was just good to sit down face to face and talk with them.”
Tennessee improved by two wins from Butch Jones’ first year at the helm to his second and then by two more wins from Year 2 to Year 3. Bonds can see a championship in the future: “I do, honestly. I feel like they’re going in the right direction. Nobody else is getting better every year like they are.”
Blending into a college roster is something wise recruits take into account. With the trek from Warrior Drive in Murfreesboro to Phillip Fulmer Way on Rocky Top being less than 3 hours, naturally Bonds is familiar with several members of the Tennessee roster and believes he could fit in.
“I definitely think so with most of the talent being from Tennessee,” he said. “I just think it would be a good fit.”
The Riverdale (Tenn.) High School junior played against then-Oakland lineman Jack jones and against then-Blackman quarterback Jauan Jennings.
The junior day included conversations with Vols defensive backs.
“I talked to Justin Martin, Cam Sutton and most of the DBs,” Bonds said.
Most recently, Louisville and Memphis were offers Nos. 10 and 11. Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are the three schools the Murfreesboro native hears from most often, he said.
Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez took the lead on Bonds’ recruitment to Tennessee.
With Bonds’ future home in the secondary, if he signs with the Volunteers, he would already have an idea as to the coaching style and expectations of Martinez.
“That’s another thing. I feel like I already have an opportunity to build a relationship with him if I do go to Tennessee,” the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Bonds said.
“He told me (this) past weekend that I can play any of the positions in the secondary, but he would like to see me play corner.”
With the Riverdale standout’s length, if he can turn and run with wide receivers and show flexibility in his hips, Bonds could develop into a playmaker on the island. The junior said his best skill is “just the way I get to the ball. My ball skills are above average. I feel like I’m a really good ball hawk.”
Bonds does not play a spring sport at Riverdale but the Warriors begin spring football practice April 19. His competitive basketball playing days came to a close last week with Riverdale falling in the TSSAA District 7-AAA tournament.
Bonds plans to graduate early and enroll in college in January.