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Look, I know this is tough to swallow, but it’s time to let it go.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an email, tweet or Facebook comment asking about Tee Higgins.
Are we still recruiting him?
Do we have a chance to flip him?
Can we change his mind with a good season?
I understand the yearning. The 5-star receiver from Oak Ridge is a stud.
But it’s time to move on.
Barring a 43rd Street Miracle, Tee Higgins isn’t coming to Tennessee.
For the (few) uninitiated, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound wideout ruined Rocky Top’s Fourth of July when he committed to Clemson in a dramatic (but admittedly pretty neat) Bleacher Report video.
The fireworks stunt burned Vols fans, as Higgins possesses elite body control and ball skills for a prep receiver.
He’s legit. No doubt.
Higgins hauled in two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in Oak Ridge’s opening win just last weekend.
— WBIR Sports (@WBIRSports) August 19, 2016
It was nearly a year ago to the day that Higgins initially committed to Tennessee, sending Big Orange into a frenzy.
The prized prospect was destined to be the hometown hero, living just 25 minutes away from Neyland Stadium.
But ultimately, Higgins had other plans.
He decommited in February, actually teased UT in the spring (naming the Vols his leaders) and then pledged his services to a different shade of orange in July.
The roller-coaster recruitment was too much for some Tennessee fans.
“A lot of Vols fans, you know, wanted me to commit to Tennessee, but I felt no pressure because it’s my decision,” Higgins told Campus Insiders recently.
Higgins is the No. 1 overall player in Tennessee and he continues to have the Volunteers in his ear, but here are three real reasons he’s a fantasy flip right now.
1. He doesn’t want to live in a fishbowl
Real talk. Being the hometown hero is hard.
Every day, Higgins is inundated with Tennessee fans wondering …
Why aren’t you committed to us?
Can we get you to flip?
The fishbowl is real.
Tennessee may exist in Higgins’ backyard, but that doesn’t mean the nation’s 3rd-ranked receiver wants to live there. Higgins didn’t just take a wrong turn on 1-40. He chose Clemson for a reason.
2. He’s close with several other Tigers commits and believes more in Clemson’s aerial attack
OK, another sore subject, but Higgins has bonded with Clemson commits Hunter Johnson, a former UT quarterback pledge, and receiver Amari Rodgers, an in-state kid and son of former Tennessee legend Tee Martin.
Relationships are everything in recruiting. The fact that Tennessee’s former 5-star quarterback is also headed to Death Valley certainly helped Clemson’s chances.
Meanwhile, Higgins is on record questioning the Volunteers passing game. Fair or not, there’s much more evidence Clemson can provide the type of vertical opportunities he seeks.
If Dobbs & Co. produce a monster season? Who knows what could happen. It’s likely still a pipe dream, but perhaps the tide could turn.
3. Tennessee has essentially moved on
Sure, the Volunteers won’t truly stop recruiting Higgins until he signs his paperwork, but they’ve already pivoted their priorities.
With few spots remaining in its 2017 class, Tennessee has focused mainly on blue-chip receivers Jeremiah Holloman and Jaylen Harris.
Holloman, a Newton High (Ga.) standout, is teammates with Vols linebacker commit Jaquan Henderson. He’s a Top-100 prospect and most believe it’s a Tennessee vs. Georgia battle. The 4-star receiver will take an official visit to UT this fall and has developed strong relationships with Butch Jones and receivers coach Zach Azzanni.
As for Harris, he recently told me how much he “loves Tennessee” and the 4-star Ohio native will likely make a decision soon.
The Vols desperately want to land a ballyhooed playmaker. Obviously Higgins fits the bill, but that ship has sailed, so all eyes land on Holloman or Harris now.
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