Is Bates A Gateway To Other Florida Recruits?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Nigel Bethel II informed TSR Sunday evening that he’s decided to postpone his announcement until he takes official visits this fall.
Tennessee coaches don’t expect Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./High) to be the end of their recruiting victories in Florida. The next commit from Florida could actually come Monday, but it seems like a long, long shot.
At least the Vols are in the running for Nigel Bethel II, the 5-foot-8, 168-pound cornerback from Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington. There’s something to be said for Tennessee’s ascension in the minds of the nation’s elite prospects.
Bethel is set to announce his decision on July 8 at 5 p.m. It would certainly be a coup if the Vols could land the highly rated defensive back. Bethel said his finalists are Florida State, Miami, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
Of his finalists, Bethel has only visited Florida State and Miami. That would seem to give those schools a strong lead. Bethel, however, said he’s still strongly considering those out-of-state finalists: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” Bethel said of playing far from home. “If I’ve got to go to Alaska and make a name for myself and be productive, that’s where I’ll go.”
Bethel pointed to his teammate, receiver Lamar Parker, as proof he was willing to commit to a school he hasn’t visited. Bethel said Parker committed to West Virginia last month without visiting Morgantown, W.V. Bethel even said going far from home might provide a more realistic college experience.
“I really think I can [commit to a school without seeing it in person],” Bethel said. “My teammate committed to West Virginia and he hasn’t been to West Virginia. It really doesn’t matter to me getting away from home.”
Tennessee has impressed Bethel lately, both directly and indirectly. Safety Byron Moore has been recruiting Bethel via social media. Bethel was also impressed that Tennessee picked up a commitment from Bates on July 3.
“I did my research on Dillon,” Bethel said. “He’s got great skills.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine Bethel turning down Miami and Florida State. When asked about the Seminoles, Bethel said, “Florida State, that was always a dream school. I fell in love with the campus when I went there.
Bethel added that he has long admired State’s ability to produce productive NFL prospects even if they’re a bit slight in stature like himself. And Miami has proximity on its side.
“It’s the hometown school,” Bethel said. “Everybody wanted to be a Miami Hurricane coming up. A lot of friends are committed to Miami.”
Obviously, Florida State and Miami have a built-in advantage. They’re nearby and he’s very familiar with both programs.
However, West Virginia and Virginia Tech have a history of recruiting well in Florida. Kentucky is rebuilding with a staff that has strong recruiting ties to Florida. The Wildcat coaches know the area well from their time at Florida State.
So where does that leave Tennessee? Well, the Vols have two advantages on their side in the chase for Bethel: momentum and playing time. The Vols are currently recruiting very well and can offer Bethel a depth chart in desperate need of some defensive backs.
Bates’ decision to commit to Tennessee sent shock waves across the football recruiting world. Sure, there were family ties to the program, but to pick the Vols over Alabama and Florida? That sent a message.
Time will tell if Bethel got the message Tennessee fans are hoping for.
Be sure to swing by the site on Monday, when I’ll give a rundown of the other top-rated Florida recruits the Vols have their eye on.