Despite this strong connection between states that are kindred spirits, Tennessee hasn't been able to tap into that prolific pipeline of pigskin prospects turned out annually in Texas.
Over the last decade tight end Eric Diogu is the only position player from Texas to start at UT more than one season, and he was eventually dismissed from the team. Other one-year wonders such as Brandon Stewart, Greg Barnum, Courtney Epps and Troy Hale came and went, while no player from Texas has ever become a star at Tennessee — not even a Lone Star.
All of that could change if Tennessee gets a commitment from running back Lennon Creer of Tatum, Texas. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound tailback is ranked No. 8 at his position and among the top 100 prospects nationally. A power back with excellent vision, good cutting ability and 4.5 speed, Creer rushed for 2,150 yards and 18 touchdowns to earn first team all-state honors. He was also voted all-east Texas MVP after leading Tatum High School to the state title.
The Vols closed a lot of ground in the last two months to currently be included in Creer's top four. He made an unofficial visit to Knoxville last week and is expected to announce his decision any day now.
"It went good," he told Oklahoma Insider's James Hale of his Tennessee visit. "They have a great academic center and you can get a lot of support up there in that area. They also have a great family atmosphere among the players and coaches, and that is very evident when you talk to everybody. I also like their facilities and I love their stadium. They have a very big stadium."
Creer also likes Tennessee's power-I formation which features the tailback.
"They run the kind of offense that I like," he said. "They run a pro set and the I-formation, and that is what I want to do. I don't want to go to an offense that runs the spread."
Creer, who is a solid student with a 3.0 GPA and a score of 19 on his ACT, has also taken unofficial visits over the spring and summer to Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. You might think the Longhorns would be the team to beat, but he's already eliminated the other UT. He also lists Miami among his final four, but hasn't visited the Canes and doesn't plan a visit. That would seem to reduce the field to three teams, but on Monday he said there is no leader.
"I have been to Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tennessee. Texas is not in my top four. My top four would be Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Miami."
So what will be the decisive factor in Creer's upcoming decision?
"Sending players to the NFL is important to me, and how they are developing people for the next level," he told Hale. "The depth chart is important to me. I don't want to go someplace where they have a bunch of running backs stacked up ready to play. How a team runs the football is also important to me because I want to go somewhere that they at least run the ball."
Tennessee would seem a likely location for a power back because the Vols not only run the ball, they pound the rock.