Tae Provens lives less than 40 minutes from the border between Alabama and Tennessee.
The skilled running back is even closer to a decision that would see him leave the Yellowhammer State for Big Orange Country after being further educated on all things orange and white at a junior day in Knoxville.
“I really enjoyed it a lot,” said Provens, whose been to Rocky Top 3-4 times. “Everything (stood out). This is a great place, this is a great place to be at. My mom was raised and born here (in Knoxville). And both of my sisters were born here as well.”
The Madison County (Ala.) High School junior made it to Knoxville last summer for camp but was unable to return for a game in the fall at Neyland Stadium. At the junior day on March 4, Provens was able to see “more of the campus” and spend time with Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
“(Gillespie) keeps it real with me,” Provens said. “He hasn’t sugarcoated anything. He’s probably one of the coaches I can really talk to more than about football. It’s not always about football with him.”
Offensive graduate assistant Cameron Clemmons has done work selling Provens on Tennessee as well.
“Coach Cam is really like my big brother honestly,” Provens said. “When we talk, we don’t even talk about football — not at all. Coach G is about the same as him. But, when it’s time to talk business, it’s time to talk business.”
John Kelly is expected to be Tennessee’s starting running back to kick off the 2017 season. Should Provens sign with the Volunteers, that would make him a freshman when Kelly is a senior. Gillespie believes Provens could find a role in the Big Orange ground attack.
“Like coach G said, he sees me coming in and kind of filling in the role of Alvin (Kamara),” the 6-foot, 185-pound Provens said. “So you know I’m going to trust the process when it’s all said and done.
“Like coach G said, me as a junior right now weighing 185, me getting up to 195 by senior year, he said I’d be more powerful. And, of course, when I get here, I’ll weigh more.”
Tennessee placed a scholarship offer on the table for the Gurley, Alabama, native back on May 10, 2016. The work done since then has paid off as he ranked the Vols “No. 1” on his list of schools. Others mentioned were Auburn, Louisiana State and Mississippi.
“Like I said, it’s not all about football here (at Tennessee,” Provens said. “It’s about building relationships. Coach Cam, even though he’s a coach, that’s still like my brother. So I’m saying I don’t really have the bond like I have with the UT coaches here like with any other school. We’ve created such a great bond.”
Provens plans to be two months into his college career by this time next year. That means a declaration figures to arrive sooner than that of others. A verbal commitment, he said, could come “summertime going into my senior year.”
“I’m actually graduating early, so decisions will be made soon,” he said.
Provens will visit Louisiana State (March 18). He will “most definitely” come back to Tennessee and plans to view the DISH Orange & White game on April 22.
“I plan to come back really soon,” he said.