D’Andre Litaker is no stranger to Rocky Top.
The folks at Tennessee have had their eye on the 6-foot-2, 302-pound defensive tackle out of Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro for quite some time, and it’s no secret that his talents are a priority for the Orange & White.
“They’ve been on me, they’re the most,” the Scout four-star prospect said of his Tennessee recruitment. “They’re hard core.”
Last month provided an opportunity for the Vols’ coaching staff to host the Volunteer State’s No. 1 defensive tackle for junior day on Feb. 18, where he spent valuable time getting to know recently-hired D-line coach Brady Hoke.
“Just really trying to build a relationship with coach Hoke,” Litaker said. “He’s a really good dude. I really got to know a lot about him, he got to learn a lot about me. You know we talked about me game — what I need to do, what I need to work on, what I’m good at, things like that.
“What I got out of him (on the visit) is he doesn’t care just about football, he cares about other people. And he knows the game of football, and he’s just a real good dude.”
Hoke, who had only been in Knoxville a little over a week before meeting Litaker, reached out to the junior lineman within his first two days in Knoxville.
“(Hoke’s) second day, he reached out and contacted me, so we’ve been on and off for probably a week and a half now,” Litaker said.
The Scout 300 member, who received his Big Orange offer well over a year ago, has started building a strong relationship with Tennessee offensive line coach Walt Wells, too.
“Walt, he’s a crazy dude,” the No. 5 defensive tackle in the South said laughingly. “I’m starting to build a good relationship with him also. We’ve been talking on and off.
“He texts every now and then. He knows that I’m busy 24-7, that’s understandable for him. But if I don’t text back to him, I’ll text back as soon as I can. Me and him, we have probably the best relationship. Walt is cool.”
Within Tennessee’s 2018 targets are a good number of fellow Volunteer State prospects, including standout players like Greg Emerson, Brant Lawless and Cade Mays. For Litaker, it’s been a “blessing” to share offers alongside his in-state counterparts.
“Yeah you know it’s a blessing to actually know these people,” the No. 14 defensive tackle in the 2018 class said. “To know that they have the same offer as I do, and to go to these schools and see what they teach, they have great majors. It’s a blessing to be around.”
The recruiting process has been one that Litaker has been able to share with fellow in-state prospects Emerson and Lawless, whom have all three built a solid relationship with each other and have even visited schools together.
“Really, we reached out to everyone,” he said. “We got ourselves our own group chat, all the main 2018 kids, we’re in a group chat. Me, Brant and Greg are all in one. We just talk to see what junior day is coming up, see what we’ve got planned; if we’ve got nothing planned, we’ll all go there. Greg went to Georgia this weekend. He wanted me to come there, but I had already told him I was coming here.”
While being a mid-state native has its perks, it can also result in “a lot of pressure,” to play in-state too, according to Litaker.
“I know Tennessee kids that play better then any other kids out there,” he said. “But you know, they say it’s best for Tennessee kids to stay in Tennessee, but you don’t know what might happen.”
While the Vols continuously leave an impression on the No. 160 prospect in the nation by building strong relationships, another SEC school is working to do the same.
“South Carolina, they’ve been on me as much as Tennessee,” he said. “Tennessee and South Carolina are the schools that have been showing the most interest.”
Amid his high number of scholarship offers including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M, the Murfreesboro native is maintaining an open mind and still exploring his options with no rush.
“Like I said, I’m not really trying to pick any school right now,” he said. “I want to try to get out during the summer and see what I want to do.”