Tennessee fans have plenty of reason to be elated by Jonathan Kongbo’s announcement of his final four schools.
First of all, the Vols are among the group, which includes Ole Miss, Southern California and Florida State. There was plenty of internet chatter that the Vols could be outside Kongbo’s top four. There was even a report that Alabama would certainly be among the final grouping. Then the 6-foot-6, 264-pound defensive end from Arizona Western Junior College (Yuma, Ariz.) surprised those following his recruitment.
All signs pointed to a disastrous ending for the Vols in Kongbo’s recruitment. Tennessee looked as if it would lose its highest rated prospect, who was once committed to be a Vol, to one of its fiercest rivals. That would not have been good.
Suddenly, the Vols have gone from a wallflower in Kongbo’s recruitment to the most sought after dance partner. There are reasons to argue the Vols are Kongbo’s best choice among his finalists.
First, Tennessee has a longer track record of recruiting Kongbo than the Trojans or Seminoles. Those relationships matter. Second, Kongbo is a perfect fit for the hybrid position that made former defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt an All-SEC player. Moreover, defensive line coach Steve Stripling has proven he can produce disruptive defensive ends, like Maggitt, Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen, who made a late-season push in Maggitt’s absence last year. Kongbo already felt comfortable at Tennessee. Had he not, he wouldn’t have committed. There’s reason to believe the Vols could get him back.
However, a strong case can be made for other schools in Kongbo’s final foursome. Southern California would allow him to be close to friends at Arizona Western. Ole Miss was one of the first schools to heavily recruit him. Florida State has had arecent run of success and a history of producing top defensive linemen.
As for now, the Vols don’t have to worry about any of the reasons why Kongbo should choose another school. They can simply take solace in the fact that they’re still in the running for one of the nation’s top prospects when their chances once looked uncertain.
Tennessee has two major hurdles to get through: an official visit to Southern California this weekend and an official visit to Florida State on Jan. 29. Unless Kongbo is wowed by those visits, there’s every reason to think Tennessee can be a silent leader heading into National Signing Day on Feb. 3.