Vic Warton and TK Jr. Plus 6 Prospects They’re Targeting
Tennessee has some highly ranked recruiters. Not all are coaches. Some are teenagers.
In its most recent update, 24/7 Sports cited UT assistants Tommy Thigpen (No. 13), Mark Elder (No. 32) and Robert Gillespie (No. 46) as three of the top recruiters in the country. That’s hardly a surprise considering the Vols have the No. 7 ranked class in the nation and the No. 3 ranked class in the SEC.
Yet Thigpen, Elder and Gillespie aren’t the only top recruiters pitching the Vols. Athlete Vic Wharton III from Thompson Station (Tenn.) Independence and safety Todd Kelly Jr. from Knoxville (Tenn.) Webb have led the Vols on several recruiting charges thanks to social media and their ever-handy cell phones. The two know each other well. They played together on youth teams before Wharton moved to Nashville with his family.
“I think it’s pretty cool knowing that me and Todd, being from Knoxville, grew up together and now we’re leading our in-state school and trying to recruit for coach [Butch] Jones and trying to get a national championship,” Wharton said. “I think it’s awesome that we are both joined together to do that.”
Said Kelly, “It’s pretty amazing…I’ve been living here for awhile now, just repping the orange and white as much as I can.”
Wharton committed to Tennessee on Christmas Day 2012. That wouldn’t have been the case had there not been a coaching change following the 2012 season. The former Tennessee staff showed very little interest in Wharton. As for Kelly, he had a Tennessee offer from the previous staff under coach Derek Dooley but never felt like a priority before Jones was hired.
“To tell you the truth when I first got offered by Tennessee and these other schools, coach Dooley was there and I had no intention of going to Tennessee at all,” Kelly said. “Just where the program was. And the coaching staff didn’t show as much interest as I thought they would…I actually got a lot more looks from other schools than the school right up the street. That kind of concerned me.”
So why has Jones and staff made a difference in the pair’s recruitment? Wharton’s answer sounds much like former prospects’ opinion on Phillip Fulmer. The former Tennessee coach prided himself on a closeness to his players.
“I just really like the family atmosphere that coach Jones brings to the table,” Wharton said. “It’s not like he’s just a head coach like some of the coaches are in the country…Coach Jones makes it known that he’s the coach; he loves us and we’re family to him…I really appreciate that, to feel the love.”
Recruiting is a never-ending battle. Prospects commit as frequently in June as they do in January. That means the Vols could be close to another commitment. Kelly thinks so.
“I think it will be pretty soon,” he hinted. “Maybe this month.”
Time will tell. Here are the prospects that Wharton and Kelly are focusing on: