Tennessee hosted a slate of visitors for their first Junior Day of the year, and Mount Juliet (Tenn.) offensive lineman Ayden Bussell was among them. The coveted mid-state prospect has continued to see his recruitment soar of late, and the Vols are making him a priority. Bussell reaped the trip to Knoxville with Volunteer Country.
Bussell has continued to visit Tennessee over the past year since earning an offer. Today's visit allowed him a chance to bond more with the Tennessee coaches, including Glen Elarbee and Josh Heupel.
"The thing I enjoyed the most is definitely the one-one-one time with Coach Heupel, Coach Ellarbee and Coach Golesh," Bussell said of the Junior Day to Knoxville. "Just really getting to dig deeper into what it is like being here. Being here on a smaller day when there are less people has allowed me to get to know them better, and just see what Vol football is all about."
Today's visit offered Bussell the chance to see just how the Tennessee coaches are in a non-football.
"Honestly, a lot of them are family men," Bussell said. "They perform as coaches first then family men second. From what I've seen, they've made this team come together in a way that is really special. Here, everyone is with everybody. The positions aren't separate. It makes it feel more like a family."
Bussell had a chance to watch Tennessee in-person a couple of times this past year, and he has been impressed with how the Vols run their offense, and naturally, it is the tempo that stands out.
"Obviously, the tempo aspect," Bussell said of this. "Fastest in the nation. Three plays per minute. That is something to behold. With them, it matches my style of game. In my high school, we run tempo as well not as fast as Tennessee of course Because that is a hard goal to achieve. But underneath good coaches, they've made it awesome. I like their style of everything a lot."
Bussell has excellent positional versatility for his 6'5", 290lbs frame, and he currently slots in at tackle at the prep level, but the Vols see him as more of an interior prospect.
"I talked with Coach Ellarbee and he sees me more of an inside guy, a guard, maybe learning center," he said of where Tennessee sees him fitting in. "He said I could really go anywhere. He said as I get bigger, faster and stronger, whatever my body type turns into, they are going to put me wherever they need me. They see me as guard right now but that can change."
Bussell, like any recruit, in any state, that has an offer from the home-state school, frequently hears about staying home for the Vols. So is there any appeal for him to stay in the borders of the Volunteer State and represent the home state?
"A little bit, yeah," he said of this. "The support that has come from the fans, just being an in-state guy, has been different from the other schools. It's the hometown hero type of vibe. Being in-state with such a big school, there is such a big push to go there. It's a little bit different."
So what is next for Bussell in this recruitment?
"My next step is seeing more," he said. "I want to be able to experience every option. I went to a lot of colleges all around the south and north this season to see them play, but right now, it is about camps and seeing the coaches. I want to be able to continue my recruiting by getting higher on the sports sites and all that then in the summer months come down to the schools I want to focus most on then go from there. Just to take my officials and make my decision from there."
Bussell is very in-tune with the process, and he knows exactly what he is looking for in a school.
"My biggest thing is relationship with coaches," he said. "How we bond together, how they can coach me, just how good of a coach they are. I love a good fanbase, how good of a school they are, a school that feels like home through relationships with teammates and coaches. And obviously, I want a good education. I want to be able to walk out of here in four to five years and have a college degree. Be able to start my life."