Riley Locklear is as articulate and organized as any player in Tennessee's recruiting class.
The Spring Valley (W.Va.) High School product used some of that sense to graduate early and get started on college life in Knoxville, moving into Stokely Hall over the weekend.
“I’m really excited to begin a new beginning to really be able to work out and come in early and really meet with the coaches and just build on the relationships that I’ve made with them,” Locklear told InsideTennessee. “It’s definitely an exciting time. I like to be around new people and socialize and do those kinds of things. So I’m really looking forward to it.”
Locklear is one of three offensive linemen on Tennessee’s commitment list of 2017, joining McMinnville’s K’Rojhn Calbert and Jackson’s Trey Smith.
“We actually have our own group (text) message,” Locklear said. “We’ve spoke on the phone with each other, we exchange stuff daily with each other just building a relationship between ourselves. I’ve talked to Trey multiple times now. He’s a great guy; he’s a really great kid. It’s special when you’re able to bring in a guy like that who also says, ‘Hey, I want to build a relationship with the guy I play football with.’ So he’s a great football player and great guy. I like him a lot.
“I actually messaged (Calbert) the day he committed because before his commitment, I was the lone offensive line commit. I’ve kind of known him for awhile. He seems to be a great kid, too.”
The West Virginia native took his official visit to Knoxville in December. He shut down his recruitment in July, firmly stayed committed to Tennessee and never took his other four official visits.
“From the other times that I was on campus, I got to sit down and hang out with some of those guys just briefly,” Locklear said. “I was able to watch (Tennessee offensive line) coach (Don) Mahoney coach his guys, do film sessions, watch coach Jones and how he was involved in practice. Whenever I went on my official visit, I got to hang out with Dylan Wiesman and I got to hang out with Josh Dobbs and some of the older guys and really got to sit down and see what they were like. I got to sit down with some of the younger guys, too. I really feel like I fit in with those guys, and they’re a really special group of kids.”
The 6-foot-5, 297-pounder must go forward into his career at Tennessee without knowing who the offensive coordinator will be after Mike DeBord left to return to the Hoosier State.
“I was kind of sad because I’d built a relationship with him,” Locklear said. “I talked with him. It’s a bad situation anytime you have an offensive coordinator leave, and I was sad to hear that he had left. I really feel like he was a good coach, he was a great guy once you got to know him. I was just sad to see that he had left.
“(Butch Jones) called me, and he talked to me briefly about it just to inform me that (DeBord) had indeed left before anybody else was able to contact me. He has not talked to me or released any information on who the new offensive coordinator would be or dropped any hints or anything. It’s going be exciting to see who the new offensive coordinator will be.”
A positional home is expected to be on the interior of the Vols front.
“I feel like if I work at it, and I succeed there and I really start to grow there, I feel like I’ll end up playing center — center or guard,” Locklear said.
Coleman Thomas returns this season as Tennessee’s starting center. At guard, Venzell Boulware, Jack Jones and Jashon Robertson all return starters’ experience. Locklear could be in line to redshirt.
“I’m open to that for any time that if my coaches feel like I need more development before I’m able to play on the field,” Locklear said. “Redshirting, it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s for the best. So, I’ll take a redshirt. If they say, ‘You’re good enough to come in every once in awhile and play,’ that’s fine with me also. Just whichever one, I’m going to leave that up to my coaches and hopefully they’ll make the best decision for the team.”
What number the blocker will wear has been one of the lone question marks about his future in orange.
“I would kind of like to either keep 75 or to change to my brother’s current number right now — 77,” he said.
Locklear plans to major in Exercise Science or Kinesiology.