KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Will Ignont visited Tennessee for the first time just 12 days ago.
It was apparently love at first sight.
The 4-star linebacker from Buckhorn High in Alabama committed to the Volunteers over a number of other SEC programs on Wednesday night.
Vol for Life ???? pic.twitter.com/D42LZ5cfs9
— RiP JiGG! (@WillIgnont) October 27, 2016
“I just got that feeling. I just fell in love with it immediately. I liked campus. The facilities. The coaching staff. It just felt like a no-brainer,” Ignont told SEC Country.
“(Tennessee) has been recruiting me the hardest the last (several) weeks. I’m just glad to be a Vol.”
The nation’s No. 9 inside linebacker is Tennessee’s 25th commit in its Class of 2017 — now ranked inside the top 10 nationally according to 247Sports.
Ignont said the Volunteers coaches were “all super excited” when he delivered the news, adding, “Coach (Butch) Jones told me he was the happiest man on Earth and I made their day.”
It’s been a whirlwind recruitment for Ignont, who was once an Alabama silent commit and has referred to several other SEC programs among his top schools.
Earlier this fall, Ignont told SEC Country that Auburn, LSU and UCLA were the schools recruiting him the hardest, but after his visit to Tennessee, everything changed.
Ignont tripped to Knoxville on Oct. 15 for the Alabama game. The 6-foot-2, 238-pound middle linebacker watched the Volunteers get blown out at home against the Crimson Tide. But instead of being deterred, Ignont “was blown away” by the experience and simply saw opportunity.
Tennessee desperately needs depth at the linebacker position, and Ignont has a chance to come in and cement a role early — a priority in his recruitment.
“They told me I have what it takes to come in and play as a true freshman,” he said.
“I just have to come in and compete and I can (earn) a job. It’s all on me. I think I’m good enough to play early if I come in and work hard.”
Despite three linebacker commits in their 2017 class, the Volunteers have not-so-quietly been targeting potential upgrades recently.
They tried to get in late with in-state product Jacob Phillips, a 4-star inside ‘backer who committed to Oklahoma in October, and reached out to Ignont for the first time in months just a couple weeks ago.
That decision paid instant dividends, as Ignont has been looking for the right fit all along.
The former Alabama silent commit, who backed off his pledge in June, instantly “fell in love” with Tennessee’s facilities, the game-day atmosphere, the “Vol Walk” and the staff.
“Tennessee has some of the craziest fans,” he said.
“I love all the coaches, too. Coach (Butch) Jones. Coach Larry Scott. Coach (Tommy) Thigpen. Even Coach (Mike) DeBord. They’re all genuine guys. They shoot you straight.”
Tennessee was among the first schools to offer Ignont, but backed off once he appeared headed to Alabama.
However, Ignont said Thigpen, who went and watched him play at Buckhorn last weekend, reached out once he re-opened his recruitment.
Then, several weeks ago, Tennessee began aggressively targeting the blue-chip linebacker and Ignont started communicating with coaches daily.
Relationships were established and now here we are. Ignont said he talks to Jones everyday, continuously building that bond.
“He’s a really cool coach,” he said.
Tennessee has three home games remaining and Ignont plans on being at both the Kentucky and Missouri games — taking his official visit one of those weekends.
While Ignont said he’s all Vol, the top-200 prospect still plans to take official visits to LSU on Nov. 5 for the Alabama game and UCLA on Dec. 15.
Auburn and Ole Miss will no longer get visits, though.