DeMario Tolan committed to LSU on July 8th of this year and has remained firmly locked into the Tigers class. When he made the decision, he planned to go to Baton Rouge to suit up and play for Ed Orgeron, but in mid-October, when LSU and Orgeron agreed to part ways, that plan was obviously impacted. While Tolan remains firm in his commitment to the Tigers, he knows he would be doing himself a disservice if he does not listen and take a look at the other schools still offering him an opportunity to suit up for them, given the changes that are set to take place in Baton Rouge.
Despite all the recruiting buzz around his name, Tolan has been entrenched in his senior season at his new high school, Dr. Phillips, in Orlando (Fla.), where he has enjoyed his senior season and growth as a player and leader.
"First of all, I transferred to a school where I had known these guys for a long time, but I had never played with them," Tolan said about his senior year. "Some of them I have been rivals with, and I just got to play with them, which was a very changing experience. We quickly started to love each other like brothers, and they treated me like a brother as soon as I walked onto campus, and we have been really close since then. Throughout the season, we got closer as a team, and we play like a brotherhood. I have loved playing with my boys."
The quick connection with his new teammates allowed Tolan to focus on his game even more, which resulted in him growing as a player.
"I feel like this season, I have been playing faster and smarter and been a better leader of the defense," Tolan said. "I know what everyone on the defense is doing and has to do for us to be able to win. That is where I really feel like I got better this season."
"It was big because I want to be a leader at the next level too," Tolan continued. "I want to be the greatest thing I can make myself, so I want to push myself to be the best at everything I can do, and I just got out of my comfort zone and tried to be a leader from the jump and turned out to be a great leader."
Tolan was served an early test ahead of his college career when the news came out that Ed Orgeron and LSU were parting ways, but he remained focused on the task at hand, and he has continued to navigate the recruiting waters since.
"When that news came down, it was shocking, but I wasn't really nervous or anything because I knew I still had options I could look at," he said. "Coach Orgeron wasn't the main reason I committed to LSU in the first place, so he can't be the only reason I am changing my decision or anything like that. I am still one hundred percent committed, but I have to look at my options because there might be a better place without him there."
Orgeron and Tolan have yet to connect since the news came out, but that is likely to change soon.
"We haven't really had those conversations yet, " Tolan said, "but we are going to get on the phone this week about that. I had a bunch of stuff going on, so that is why we have not been able to really talk about it."
Since the news came out, Tolan has heard from multiple major schools, and they have let him know he has an opportunity to play at their school if he wants it.
"Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, Florida State, and Miami, and a bunch of other schools like Cincinnati that are in the top ten have reached out."
Tennessee Linebackers Coach Brian Jean-Mary was in Orlando last week to see Tolan, as the Vols used the evaluation period visit to reiterate that he remains a priority to them.
"He came down to see me (play) at a great time last week," Tolan said about Jean-Mary. "He got to watch me play on my senior night, so that was fun for me."
Despite currently not being able to talk in person due to the NCAA recruiting rules, Tennessee has maintained strong lines of communication with Tolan through permissible contact, and the message has been clear from Jean-Mary and the entire staff.
"He (Jean-Mary) really was very crazy about it (needing me at Tennessee) after they lost to Bama," Tolan said about the recent message from the Vols. "He felt like I was the missing piece, so that is really why he was like after that game, I am going to be even more heavy on you."
However, the Vols aren't the only ones making Tolan feel like a priority, and he is going to use his visits to ensure that he makes the right decision and gets the right feel for each coach and opportunity.
"The plan for this month, I am going to go to the Georgia game this weekend, then next weekend, I am going to try to go to the Tennessee-Georgia game at Tennessee, then I am setting up an official to Auburn, which may be for the Alabama game," Tolan said. "That is all I really have planned for right now. I am going to try to make plans if I get another free weekend to take a visit."
Tolan took a bevy of visits in the summer once the recruiting period re-opened, which allowed him to get a feel for certain schools, but more importantly, it allowed him to know what he will be looking for this second time around.
"I am most likely just going to be looking to see how real everything is," he said. "I don't want to see no bluffs or anything like that. I want everything to be straight up and no fake business that is going to distract me from football. I don't care so much about seeing the city because I want to see what is going to help me. I am just trying to find a great place that will help me get to the next level after college."
So with these visits lined up, will Tolan sign with a school in December?
"If it comes down to me figuring out where I want to go, I will sign in December, but if not, I will have to push it back because I don't want to force anything."
Regardless of when the time comes, he knows what a school is getting in him as a player.
"They are getting everything out of me," he said. "Wherever I go, I am going there for a reason and a purpose; to make that school a better school and go to the NFL after I get my degree."