That first time taking the field on gameday, in a stadium that hosts 100,000-plus fans, is a moment Santino Marchiol has always dreamed of—and within a couple of weeks, he intends to decide which team he will share that moment.
The 6-foot-2, 228-pound linebacker narrowed his 40-plus offers down to just three Southeastern Conference schools: Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
“I’m down to those three and I’m going to make my decision soon,” the Denver, Colorado, native told InsideTennessee. “It’s getting pretty hard now. All of those schools are unbelievable.”
Yet after several visits to Knoxville—and especially after attending the Orange & White game in April—a certain aspect of Tennessee stands out to the Scout four-star prospect.
“(The fan base) is what really separates Tennessee, honestly,” Marchiol said. “Their fans are tremendous and so is their support. If I even tweet anything about Tennessee, all the fans reach out to me. Just going to the spring game and seeing how many thousands of fans were there for just a spring scrimmage—I can’t even imagine what game day looks like in Knoxville.”
The No. 13-ranked outside linebacker in the South maintains a close relationship with the Volunteers coaching staff. He regularly speaks with head coach Butch Jones as well as linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. He also speaks with future Vols such as Jarrett Guarantano and Solon Page III.
Though he grew up in the Rocky Mountains, Marchiol “dreamed of playing in the SEC since he was a little kid.” While playing at Cherry Creek (Colo.) High School, his standout talents landed him a full scholarship offer to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He accepted an opportunity that would open plenty of doors for his long-term goal to play in the SEC.
“When I came down (to IMG Academy), I got an offer from Tennessee, Ole Miss and other SEC schools,” the four-star said. “So that was one of my best decisions coming down here.
“The SEC has always been a dream of mine to play in, because in my mind—and I’m pretty sure a lot of other people’s minds too— it really is the top league in the country. They send the most players to the NFL every year.”
The No. 4-ranked outside linebacker in the Sunshine State provides aggressiveness and physicality, and he believes that his experience at IMG Academy is further developing his skill set as he prepares to take on the college football.
“I came into the academy at (approximately) 200 pounds in January, and now I’m at 228— and I’m running a 4.6. I’ve not only gotten way bigger, but I’ve also gotten a lot faster with all the training I’ve had down here,” Marchiol said.
The highly ranked linebacker prospect’s football I.Q. sets him apart from his contemporaries as his father, a former NFL player, regularly provides insight to his game.
“Me and my dad are always watching film, studying film, studying opponents and my footwork, and just how I need to do things,” the nation’s No. 26 outside linebacker said.
Marchiol narrowed his options to his favorite schools that he feels are most in need of his position. He believes his early decision will quiet the distractions of recruiting as he prepares for graduation in the fall, and allow him to go ahead and get involved with a program. He intends to take part in spring practice as a mid-year enrollee.
Upcoming visits with Vols include the Battle at Bristol set for Sept. 10 as well as the Alabama game in Knoxville on Oct. 15.