On a cool February day, without thousands of orange-clad Tennessee fans milling about campus with tents dotting the area or the striking notes of Rocky Top resonating throughout The Hill, Butch Jones' program made strides with a big-time prospect. In fact, the subtraction of the game day atmosphere Tennessee is known for actually helped.
Scout three-star defensive end Jordan Williams made the trek from Virginia Beach to Knoxville on March 5 for a massive junior day and spent valuable time with head coach Butch Jones, defensive line coach Steve Stripling and defensive graduate assistant Nathan Ollie as he got a look inside Tennessee.
"I definitely enjoyed myself," Williams said. "There being a lot of prospects, it still felt like we could really spend time together and definitely get a bond and build that relationship."
The three voices are familiar ones to Williams, who was offered by the Vols in January. Putting a face to those voices made the trip to the Volunteer State even better for the class of 2017 product.
"The phone calls, they're all different," Williams said. "When you see them in person, you get a good feel for them and definitely a good vibe. It was just special to be around all those guys and just talk to them and just hear what they had to say to me and stuff like that."
What did the coaches say to Williams one they got him in person? The sales pitch involved getting to hit the field early and challenge for reps in a defensive line unit that will need to build depth for 2017.
"We were just talking about how they didn't sign any high school defensive linemen," Williams told InsideTennessee. "They just told me it's a good opportunity to step in and play early."
Williams has seen Neyland Stadium before, so the monstrous football cathedral didn't move him as much as the indoor and outdoor practice facilties that Tennessee boasts.
"I would have to say the facilties definitely (surprised me)," Williams said. "I've never seen any of the facilities. I've seen the stadium with the checkerboard and all that, but the pracice facility, the indoor (facility), the weight room, all that definitely stood out to me."
The rising senior has already acquired offers from other programs like Clemson, Florida and Notre Dame, among others, and is hoping to narrow down his offer list to a top seven or eight in the coming weeks. After the junior day, Tennessee looks to be in a good position to make the cut.
"I'm probably going to cut my list down possibly next month or so," Williams said. "Once I cut my list, I'm taking different visits. I'm going to take (a visit) to spring practices of all those schools. I'm going to go to games and see the game day atmosphere and build my decision off of that."
Future visits right now include a trip to see a Tennessee spring practice session and possibly a Georgia trip. His most recent visit to Knoxville showcased Tennessee's rise and, in the process, put them in a good position with the Virginia native moving forward.
"It definitely helped them," Williams said. "I already liked (Tennessee). I did research on the academic side and I've been watching them play on TV. I just love the swagger the defense plays with, so coming here and being able to see everything for myself definitely opened my eyes."