It’s not often that Tennessee can travel into Florida and secure a prospect who is highly coveted by Florida and Miami. That was the case when offensive lineman Marcus Tatum signed with the Vols in February.
There was every reason to think he wouldn’t end up at Tennessee. Florida made a strong push in January, sending five coaches to his high school on the first day the dead period ended. Miami had an early inside track before the coaching turnover in Coral Gables, Fla.
Credit the Vols for making Tatum, who is from Mainland High School (Daytona Beach, Fla.), a high priority. Tennessee’s coaches got a commitment from Tatum on Jan. 11 and they never let go of the 6-foot-6, 260-pound offensive tackle.
He was the No. 42 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 61 prospect in Florida, according to the final 247Sports composite rankings.
Here is what Tatum had to say about his recruitment:
What school came in second? What could they have done a little better? I can be honest now. It’s Florida. The thing they could have done better for me is more involvement from the position coach I’d actually be playing at. I didn’t really have a good relationship with (offensive line) coach (Mike) Summers as I would have liked to have. I don’t know why. That’s just how it worked out I guess. I didn’t talk to him as often as I wanted to. But (Tennessee) coach (Don) Mahoney, I talked to all of them everyday. That’s something they (Florida) could have done better.
What is the funniest thing any head coach said to you during the entire recruiting process, either on phone or in person? I remember when (Florida) coach Mac (Jim McElwain) first saw me. He was just surprised how tall I was. It was funny how he always looked at me. He’d say, “Man, you get taller and taller and taller everytime, everytime, everytime.” That was always funny to me. I was there so often so it was like he could see me grow.
Which coach was it the hardest to say no to? That you weren’t coming there? (Receivers) coach (Kerry) Dixon and (defensive line) coach (Chris) Rumph at Florida. It was really hard to tell them that.
Which school disappointed you the most during recruiting? Arkansas. Just because some of the way coach (Bret) Bielema came off to me, I didn’t really like it much. Just his personality didn’t come off good to me. It didn’t come off good to my mom either.
Which head coach of a team that you did not sign with was the nicest? Before (former Miami coach) Al Golden got fired, I really liked Coach Golden. He was the man, honestly. He was just a great all-around guy. And Ccoach Mac at Florida. He’ a great guy too.
Which coach was not the nicest, Bielema? I just didn’t click well with him.
What was the funniest story that happened on one of your recruiting trips? One of the funniest ones was driving with coach (Tommy) Zagorski going to coach (Butch) Jones’ house and just driving on those mountains. If you can just imagine coach Zig and I sitting in the front seat of an Escalade, how big he is and how big I am. Around the turns, we were rubbing shoulders together. It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever been a part of. (Note: Zagorski was an offensive quality control coach at Tennessee. He is now the tight ends/offensive tackles coach at Eastern Kentucky.)
If you could give a junior ONLY one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be? Throughout the recruiting process, get to know the players. Don’t get caught up in all the coaches because the coaching will change. It will change fast. The coach that’s been recruiting you all these years could just switch schools because he wants to, better for his family or a personal situation like that. Always get connected with players and the recruits more than the coaches.
What was the most creative thing a school or coach did to get your attention? Honestly, it wasn’t really anything like that. When I talked to coaches I told them straight up, all that flashy stuff, I don’t really care. I’m a lineman. I just want to get to know you as a person and what the school had to offer academically. I always let them know beforehand. You’re just wasting your time doing that. It’s not going to push me to your school anymore.
What was the biggest rumor about you that wasn’t true? Oh, goodness, gracious. There’s a lot. There was one where I was committed to Florida. There was one where I was committed to Tennessee. There was one that was saying I weighed 230 (pounds)…At one point in time, I was going to stand on a scale and tweet it because I was like, “That makes no sense.”
What’s the biggest secret you kept during the recruiting process? Who my true leaders were. I always said all schools were the same when they never really were. There were some schools that I didn’t really talk to often, that I would (talk to) just to keep it friendly. It was still a race but at some point in time it really wasn’t a race anymore.
Describe the impact of cost of attendance on your recruiting? That meant zero. I truly didn’t know what it was until I read some compliance thing, a random article that came up.
Which college would you have considered more seriously if they had offered you? If Stanford would have offered me, I would have given it a good look because I wanted to go to Stanford for a long, long time. When I was growing up as a kid, I used to watch Stanford and Miami. But Stanford never offered so I grew up and learned that there’s brighter things ahead.
How much negative recruiting was out there? Honestly with me, none, because I didn’t want to hear any of that anyway. I never heard any. Coaches were always talking good about other coaches. It was really positive pretty much all the time.
If you were in charge of the NCAA, what’s the one rule you would change with recruiting? Just the little petty rules. They do good on the major ones. The major rules are O.K., just some of the little ones? They’re talking about coaches can’t subtweet a player. I think that’s just crazy…Some of the little things, they’re just being bossy. It’s like, “Come on now.”
All player ranking and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.