2014 WR Josh Malone (6'2.5 195, TN) is down to Clemson and Tennessee. He will announce today morning/afternoon at noon--this will be streamed live with Rivals and NBCSports. The family went silent with coaches and the media yesterday--he will inform the losing coaches before the announcement so we may find out some information before but right now no one definitively knows where he is going but he has made his mind up. I have long given Tennessee the slight edge because of the familiarity with the program, proximity, and pull of those around him to Tennessee. But as I have maintained, Clemson has a fighters chance. Malone will enroll early.
This recruitment has been a back and forth struggle. Tennessee was out of the picture largely in August but they worked their way to the top and were the clear leader. Then Clemson, during our official visit, put us back ahead. Tennessee has worked their tails off, pulling out all the stops to try and regain and maintain their lead.
That timeline included a trip to the Kansas City versus Denver NFL game with UT booster club executive Mikki Allen. Supposedly there is a pre-existing family relationship? An 'Uncle' perhaps?? Just so happens that many former Tennessee NFL players are on those two teams.
This is super recruiter Tommy Thigpen on the warpath. Tennessee has the number two ranked class in the nation and is jettisoning 4* players because they already have 34 committed players and are angling for even more top talent. This is coming off of consecutive losing seasons. There was a reason I wanted Thigpen on our staff. Tennessee has gone so far as to spread false information about Clemson (beyond the norm of misinformation--these were blatant lies) that seemed to be working in their favor but to the credit of Clemson's coaches they came in last Friday and cleared that up.
Things got really interesting over the weekend at the Tennessee player of the year banquet. Apparently Tennessee high school coaches are given ten tickets to distribute and, of course, the majority of Tennessee coaches were in attendance. Clemson requested tickets to the even multiple times but were denied tickets but we found a way to get two coaches in any way (and here I really applaud the staff) with Caldwell and Scott. The banquet folks were not pleased to see recruiting going on but I think it was more that Clemson found a way in. Clemson and Tennessee had tables right in the front and the tension was palpable. The problem is that this banquet was full of UT committed players and people in Malone's ear. Tennessee coaches were the last to leave.
Then came the in-home visits and Malone did not give a silent commit to either team. Both visits went well and lasted 2 hours each with the family present. My understanding is that the family is letting Josh make the decision himself and would allow him to go to Clemson. This is big and if this were not the case--this would be over already. Right now there is still the possibility.
Malone has studied this decision out extremely well. He knows the depth charts and the history of both schools to put some WR's in the first round of the draft. We are selling Malone on stepping in for Sammy Watkins right away, playing early, and the family/faith atmosphere. Tennessee is selling him on being the focal point of a revitalization for Tennessee, playing in the SEC, guaranteed early playing time (which we wouldn't promise to North last year), proximity, and the NFL.
We have Chad Morris (and that 'interest' in Wake Forest stinks to high noon, right before the decision) and Deshaun Watson while Tennessee has countered with Josh Dobbs (who was his player host on the Tenn official visit) and Riley Ferguson as good enough QB's to lead their offense. They also have North and incoming commits RB Jalen Hurd and WR Lavon Pearson. So this is about selling Malone on being the capstone that leads that group forward. So is this a business decision or do emotional attachments ultimately win out. Malone can see himself playing and exceeding in both of these visions.
This could go either way but the smart money is on Tennessee.
Hopefully Josh Malone will give Chad Morris an early birthday gift in a couple of hours.