Tennessee hosted elite linebacker DeMario Tolan on Saturday for his first gameday experience on Rocky Top. The prized product from the Sunshine State chose LSU over Tennessee, Clemson, and several others over the summer. But after LSU parted ways with Ed Orgeron in October, Tolan knew that he had to revisit all of his available options to ensure he made the right choose, which is why he returned to Tennessee for Saturday's game against top-ranked Georgia.
"First, I enjoyed coach BJ and coach Heupel's love for me as soon as I got there," Tolan said of what he enjoyed the most about the visits. "Those guys really appreciate me, and the game-day experience was a blast because they scored early, had big-time plays early, and the atmosphere was crazy. The fans were going crazy, and the team was hype. Whenever they had a couple of mistakes, it was really just the small ones that slowed the team down, but if they could've kept it going, they could've had a chance at winning."
Tolan had a chance to build the initial bond with the Vols staff over the summer, but Saturday allowed him more of an opportunity to see what they have been telling him about.
"Since it was a new coaching staff (in the summer), they were talking a lot on my first visit. On this second visit, I got to see live in action what they were talking about."
"I saw sometimes they were going man coverage, and the linebackers would have to go guard the slot receivers and running backs," Tolan continued. "I feel like I could lock up those players. When it was running plays, I saw linebackers filling wrong gaps or just overrunning. I feel like I could fill that position better than they could."
When asked if anything else stood out about the trip, Tolan was clear on how apparent the Tennesee was in making him a priority.
"Knowing that the whole team and the coaches, especially coach Heupel, is really in love with me and wants me to come there," he added. "That sets a high standard in my recruitment."
The love from Tennessee has never stopped, even after Tolan committed to LSU, which is another reason why he is giving this staff another opportunity.
"They really showed and have always shown love. They have never really showed any type of bluff or fake. They always showed love and told me they would love me and wish the best for me whether I went there or not."
Tolan's family was once again able to make the trip to Knoxville with him, and they came away impressed with their time, according to the coveted linebacker.
"They really love it, especially my dad," he said. "He really loves Tennessee overall because of the history and everything, but they want me to stay patient and not rush anything because I still got a little bit left. I don't want to make a decision on what I'm feeling now. I want to make the best decision overall."
So did the Vols make enough of an impression to stay in Tolan's recruitment until the end?
"Yes, sir. I feel like they are right behind LSU right now.
Next Tolan will take an official visit to Georgia this weekend and then take a trip to Auburn for the Iron Bowl against Alabama later in the month. After those trips, he will spend time reflecting with his family to ensure that he knows what he wants to do.
He will have the option to sign in December if he chooses to, but he has not ruled out signing in February if things do not feel right for him.