Recruiting The Berry Twins
The younger brothers of UT All-American Eric Berry and sons of former UT captain James Berry have spent plenty of time in Knoxville. The family even has a blue-tick hound named Rocky after Rocky Top. The two have considered a future visit to Florida but haven’t visited any other schools other than Tennessee. It seems just a matter of time until two more Berrys sign with the Vols.
Other college recruiters have noticed. Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Clemson and Ohio State have recruited the two but not to the extent they would have had it not been for their UT ties.
“I don’t even think slow play would be the word, probably like cutting recruiting off,” said Elliot of other schools’ pursuit of the fraternal twin brothers.
Elliot is a 5-foot-11, 194-pound linebacker. He has said he would like to play a hybrid position in which he can play strong safety and linebacker. He is rated a three-star prospect by 24/7.
Evan agreed that schools have backed off the two because recruiters assume they’ll eventually sign with UT. Evan said he’s told recruiters he’s open to other schools but they don’t seem to believe him. Evan is a four-star, 5-11, 195-pound athlete prospect. He recently said he’d rather play offense than cornerback where he was originally projected. Elliot isn’t worried about being a star short of his brother.
“I don’t really pay attention to those type of things,” he said. “I never really cared about stars. He can have it.”
Evan has played offense and defense in high school but hasn’t been too fond of the fines and suspensions he’s seen on defensive players. That’s much less likely to happen at running back or receiver.
“I got to stay on the side with the most money,” he joked
Football advice is never too far away in the Berry family. Eric Berry, who is about to begin his third season with the Kansas City Chiefs, is always there to provide guidance.
“Really, he just tells us to stay humble because no matter how good you are you, it can always be taken away at any moment,” Evan Berry said. “You see it today with all sports. You do one thing and you’re back to living a normal, regular life and people don’t think you’re a great player anymore.”
Recruiting the two prospects has been a team effort by the Vols, headed up by head coach Butch Jones. Recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni, running backs coach Robert Gillespie, and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen have all been involved.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Evan said. “It’s obviously a blessing. Most players only have one coach after them or no coaches at all. It tells me that they really want me and they can use me at the next level.”
Elliot agreed that the group approach has made an impression. During a recent visit, he said he spent an hour talking scheme with defensive coordinator John Jancek and Thigpen.
“I just like the energy they bring,” he said of UT’s staff. “I like the knowledge you can get from these coaches.”
Of course, Jones leads the charge. His energy has been effective enough to make UT one of the hottest recruiting teams in the country.
“I always liked that he’s excited about anything,” Evan said. “Whether it’s a bad play or a good play, he’s excited.”
The younger Berrys aren’t letting a hot class full of high school recruiters affect their decision. While other UT commitments have called, like athlete Vic Wharton and safety Todd Kelly Jr., the twins have held them at bay. Fans, however, are another matter. Since Eric Berry touted his brothers as top athletes years ago, Evan and Elliot Berry have been household names in Knoxville. Evan beating Eric in a race this month has only fueled the fire. The twins have been known by UT fans since they were sophomores in high school.
“It’s actually weird,” Elliot said. “It’s great…It throws me off a little bit. I haven’t done anything yet. I haven’t played a down of college football. For people to ask me for autographs, I don’t mind signing it but I haven’t done anything [in college football yet].”
Said Evan, “I would say they’re the best fans out of all the schools…They’re just really showing love to try to get us up there.”
Evan said his father, James, doesn’t push Tennessee on his sons. Yet he offers one piece of insight about the Vols’ faithful.
“He said the fans will always be there,” Evan said. “Winning season, they’ll be there. Losing season, they’ll be there.”
The twins said they’re not sure when they’ll announce their decision. While UT’s 2014 class is filling up fast, there’s sure to be two spots for the Berrys. This much is known. Had former coach Derek Dooley’s staff still been in place, the Berrys might have a far different direction in recruiting.”
“I,” Elliot said flatly, “didn’t really get to know them that well.”
Listen to my entire interview with the Berry twins by clicking HERE.