Relationships are the lifeblood of recruiting.
When Brady Hoke took over as Tennessee’s defensive line coach earlier this month, the former Michigan head coach had to get to work quickly forging ties with recruits giving the Volunteers a long look.
Greg Emerson is among the blue-chip names atop Tennessee’s recruiting board for the 2018 class. He’s the Volunteer State’s most impressive junior defensive lineman and a case can be made for his being the most vital target this cycle.
Hoke taking over for Steve Stripling leading the Vols D-linemen doesn’t sound like it will affect Emerson’s interest in Tennessee.
“Not really,” Emerson told InsideTennessee. “I mean sometimes you’ve just got to think about it from a different perspective. Sometimes changes are for the better. You can’t just let a change make you change your mind on where you would enjoy yourself.”
Another factor in the Orange & White’s pursuit of the Scout four-star prospect is five-star offensive lineman Trey Smith, who picked Tennessee and enrolled in school in Knoxville in January. Both players hail from the same Jackson, Tennessee, town.
“I know we texted yesterday. That was the last time I talked to him,” Emerson said Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder plans to be at Georgia this Saturday and at Tennessee on March 4. Emerson last came over to Knoxville in December.
The defender said his next Rock Top trip will involve “definitely me getting to spend some time with the D-line coach and getting to spend some time with my boy Trey if he’s there I’ll see him, more than likely I’ll see him.”
The recruitment of the Scout 100 talent has been ongoing for over a year already and things are starting to shake out.
“I’m still looking at everybody,” Emerson said. “I think I’ve narrowed it down to my top 6 but my options are still open even though I’ve done narrowed it down. My options are still open. It’s just I think I can have a clear vision of where I want to go if I narrow it down to like six schools. I think I’ve narrowed it down but my options are still open.”
The nation’s No. 9-ranked defensive end knows a portion of what will make up his list of finalists. The announcement of the top 6 is scheduled to come March 8.
“Alabama for sure and Oregon for sure. From there, I’m still narrowing it down. I would (put Tennessee in),” he said.
North Side (Tenn.) High School football is led by Donnie Nickey, who competed as a special teams stalwart and back-up safety for the Tennessee Titans 2003-10 after winning a national championship at Ohio State.
“Actually coach Nickey is a great guy after you get to settle down and just talk with him and meet with him and all,” Emerson said. “Actually me and coach Nickey have a great relationship now. My momma was one of the people that sat in and interviewed him. When I was like walking up to the school to come get some money from her to go get something to eat, he was walking out and I met him. She was like, ‘Greg, this is Donnie Nickey. He played for the Titans.’ I was like, ‘How you doing?’ and all of that. After he found out about me being one of the top prospects in Tennessee, we just really sat down and talked and just hit if off from there. From there we went to Ohio State and all that.”
Nickey hasn’t tried to steer Emerson any one direction, choosing rather to lay down some blanket advice.
“The only real advice that he just gave me was go where you’re comfortable, not where it may be a good program but what about school-wise or how you feel in the community,” Emerson said.