When CJ Cotman delivered the good news to Tennessee coaches on Wednesday evening, the electric Florida athlete just heard commotion on the other end of the line.
“It was crazy. They were running up and down the hallways. I heard a lot of screaming and yelling,” Cotman said after becoming Tennessee’s 21st commit in its 2017 class.
“It was just exciting to get that off my shoulders, so now I can just focus on school and this upcoming season.”
The 3-star Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic High standout committed on a bit of a whim Wednesday, even surprising his high school coach, Chris Harvey.
“We knew that there was a short list, but the decision to do it this early was his,” Harvey said. “I think that goes to show you how strongly he feels about Tennessee and coach (Larry) Scott.”
In the last several years, Cotman developed a close relationship with former Miami Hurricanes assistant Larry Scott — now Tennessee’s tight ends coach — and that bond ultimately tipped the scales in the Vols’ favor over schools like North Carolina, Oregon, Florida and others.
“Coach Larry Scott had a big part in it,” Cotman said, explaining why he was so sold on Tennessee.
“He was coaching at Miami, but when he went over to Tennessee he never gave up recruiting (me). He always kept in contact.”
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound prospect is a two-way star at Clearwater Central, helping lead the Marauders to the state championship as a freshman. As a junior, he recorded 69 tackles and three interceptions playing free safety and scored 15 touchdowns as an all-purpose back.
Colleges across the country recruited Cotman to play tailback, receiver or defensive back. The speedy athlete plans on lining up at cornerback for Tennessee.
“I’m looking at the future,” he said. “If it’s in God’s will for me to make it all the way to the NFL, DBs always last longer in the NFL. So I was just looking into that. I always wanted to play defense.”
Cotman said he’ll still have plenty of opportunities to showcase his playmaking skills for Vols fans, though, as he hopes to be returning punts, kickoffs and potentially seeing touches on offense, too.
Regardless of where he’s utilized, Harvey said Tennessee has landed a stud.
“He’s a legit 4.3-second football player,” Harvey said. “He’s a physical kid. He’s 5-11, 180 pounds, but he plays like he’s 210.
“Right off the bat, he’ll be in the mix early at Tennessee. … He’s right there with all the best players in the state.”
Cotman chose the Vols out of 32 total offers from across the country, pledging himself despite never setting foot in Knoxville.
That’ll change soon.
Cotman will visit Tennessee sometime in the next two weeks, but the speedy athlete isn’t looking for any sort of confirmation on his decision.
“It’s a dream to play in the SEC,” he said. “I know I made the right decision.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com