UT still in the hunt for Nigel Bethel?

Updated: July 11, 2013

Nigel Bethel

The most astute Tennessee fans were a bit disappointed on Monday. Vol fans had hoped to pick up the 19th commitment of the 2014 class. Don’t be too dismayed, though. It could still happen. It just might take awhile.

Nigel Bethel sent strong signals he would commit to Tennessee earlier last week. Late Sunday night, that turned out not to be the case when Bethel decided to postpone his earlier planned commitment via a text message to Tennessee Sports Radio. Instead, and understandably so, the cornerback from Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington will take some visits instead of making an early announcement.

While he was thought to be leaning towards Tennessee, the postponement could still be good news for Vol Nation. Because now, UT’s coaches will get a chance to get Bethel on campus and show him what they fully have to offer.

Apparently, the Vols have already done a good job in recruiting Bethel. Tennessee’s been led by two commitments: athlete Victor Wharton III and cornerback DeAndre Payne. Current UT cornerback Byron Moore has also participated in recruiting Bethel via Twitter.

“They’re doing a heckuva a job,” the 5-foot-8, 170-pound prospect said of the Vols’ recruiting efforts. “Guys like Vic, DeAndre Payne and B-Moore recruiting me and coach Butch [Jones] and the new coaching staff, they’re getting a nice recruiting class going. They say it’s the legacy class.

“I want to keep helping them build that foundation.”

That sounds like Tennessee is in good shape with Bethel. That’s good for Tennessee, which needs help in the secondary. Yet Florida State and Miami won’t go away easily.

Twitter exploded last weekend when it was mentioned that Tennessee had a better shot at landing Bethel than initially believed last week. The above prospects, Moore and fans all tried to woo Bethel to Knoxville via a flood of tweets.

“It was big for me because they don’t do much like that at Miami,” Bethel said. “The fan base isn’t really that big since the Orange Bowl got knocked down.”

Wherever Bethel is leaning, he’s trying to keep it a secret.

“I tell everybody that nobody knows where I’m going to go,” he said. “Everybody is predicting that I’m going to go to all these places but nobody knows where I’m going.”

If Bethel leaves Florida for college, it seems Tennessee and Kentucky would be logical choices. Playing in the SEC has a certain allure.

“The SEC is a top-notch conference,” Bethel said “If I can solidify myself as being the best in the SEC then I can solidify myself as being the best in college football.”

Bethel said he has the most friends among prospects committed to Florida State, Tennessee and Miami. Technically, Bethel has a top five, but it sure sounds more like a top three.

Bethel to Tennessee sounded crazy last week. It seemed plausible on Saturday. Based on my conversation with him this past Sunday, it seems Tennessee might actually be the leader.

Time will tell.

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