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Will Tennessee Land Top Wide Receiver Recruit Carnell Tate?

In this week's recruiting mailbag, we look at how the altered group of top schools and relationships with top quarterbacks could impact the coveted wide receiver's decision

Sports Illustrated's John Garcia, Jr. selects one question posed to him through social media each week to delve into the college football recruiting topics fans want to know most about. 

Looking through the latest questions posed through social media this week, the same name and topic has continued to come up on my timeline -- Carnell Tate and when he may decide on a school. 

The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy wide receiver has been making consistent visits to one program of late, the Tennessee Volunteers, even beyond taking his official visit to Knoxville in April. He was back on campus earlier this month as the final visit of any type on record, too. It has led to quite the confidence level from the Big Orange faithful, but it is warranted? 

Is Tennessee the Favorite for Carnell Tate?

Let's begin with what we know from the star wideout himself. Tate has gone on record with SI several times this year, the most recent coming last week following IMG Academy's spring showcase event. After hauling in a score and leading the way as a blocker for another, the 6-foot-2 star said he was indeed down to four programs ahead of a verbal commitment. 

"Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee and LSU," Tate said when asked who was still in contention down the stretch. 

That means programs making his public top group, a top five released on March 15, has been tweaked considerably. That day, it was Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Tennessee. The national title game participants appear completely on the outside looking in at this point, with Tate even confirming plans of scrapping a Georgia official visit that had initially been set up for later this summer. 

The top five is now a top four, with LSU replacing Kirby Smart's current and former program along the way. Each of the remaining four has had him on campus at least once, with the Irish, Buckeyes and Volunteers getting multiple trips out of Tate since the fall.  This recruitment has featured plenty of twists and turns already, so let's set the table from each of the finalists' perspectives in the order Tate confirmed them in. 

Notre Dame, should Tate had been firm on his original timeline of making the call in the fall, was in really great shape. The Chicago native had been on campus plenty of times, often with close friend and elite quarterback Dante Moore (who ND is still likely the favorite for) and the two looked like a borderline package deal to the Irish or Ohio State. Tate admitted Brian Kelly's move from South Bend to Baton Rouge was the one that hit him hardest among the changes after the 2021 season, though he remains high on Marcus Freeman and certainly offensive coordinator Tommy Reese – each still in town. The program, which also changed wide receivers coach following Kelly's move to the SEC, does currently have the best 2023 class nationally to date. The Irish had a pair of coaches at IMG's spring game, too.

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Ohio State is the program Tate favored for most of his life, coming up in the area combined with the prowess of the program both in general and certainly at the wide receiver position. There is an argument that no program is developing the position better than OSU, led by Brian Hartline, who was at IMG to see Tate in action last week. Over the longstanding interest in his recruitment, Ryan Day's program has long looked like the safest bet to keep the pipeline of talent at the position rolling. He was last in Columbus for an unofficial visit with his South Florida Express teammates, including fellow top wide receiver recruit Brandon Inniss, in April. Should he pair with a fellow top wideout in the class, it would likely be with Inniss at OSU as far as we can tell. 

Tennessee holds the current buzz with Tate from the tangible angle, including three visits this year. It was re-emphasized as he wrapped up all of his visits with yet another to Knoxville two weekends ago. That trip, like at least one other to Rocky Top, was with highly-touted quarterback and Vol commitment Nico Iamaleava, who has been campaigning to get Tate to join him in Knoxville. Not only has the Tate family grown close to the Iamaleava's, but Carnell and Nico have become increasingly tight. Per a source, it's to the point where the communication is nearly daily between the pair. The Vol angle is the only, among finalists, that pairs with an established quarterback recruit -- something Tate is keeping an eye on ahead of a decision. UT, with an explosive offense of its own to sell under Josh Heupel, had multiple coaches at IMG last Thursday as well. 

LSU secured the final official visit from Tate, in late April, which he took in conjunction with the QB recruit he knows best in Moore. The duo of course is also long linked to Kelly, the program's new head coach, dating back to the last few years at Notre Dame. While in town, lining up with LSU's spring game, Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase spent some time with the duo, and we can assume a pitch to be the next great duo in Baton Rouge was made. More importantly for Tate, though, he said Kelly has a new energy about him, something he called a "different swag" about the longtime coach at his new post. He also said Kelly appears more free and honest in SEC country.

The timeline of Tate's decision, something he says could now come at just about any time, is critical in trying to project the programs in the best shape. Timeline facts, wrapping up all visits and canceling more experiences at Georgia and/or Alabama, has to favor Tennessee at this point. Throw in the offense, relationship with Iamaleava and some of the most aggressive NIL opportunities we've seen over the last year and the Volunteer faithful has a reason to be confident. 

Can it pull over a lifelong allure to Ohio State? What about new-look LSU? Can Moore's behind-the-scenes favorites have the Tigers and Notre Dame in better shape for Tate than we think? 

Of course, it's recruiting in 2022 and we should remind readers that even when Tate elects to come off the board, he could continue to take prospect visits to the program of choice and/or elsewhere. He confirmed as much just last week. 

Have a recruiting question? Connect with @SIAllAmerican and/or @JohnGarcia_Jr to submit yours and it could be featured on the next mailbag. 

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