KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us at SEC Country for the latest recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers.
It took a while, but Tennessee finally found its quarterback for the 2017 class.
Texas signal caller Will McBride flipped from Memphis to Tennessee late Tuesday night, filling a big need for the Vols.
“I get to live out a dream and do it at a special place,” McBride told me.
“I’ve never been shy of competition and challenging myself and that’s what separates Tennessee.”
Go Vols!!! pic.twitter.com/v7kxhwle6E
— Will McBride (@willmcbride_) December 14, 2016
McBride is the 25th commit in UT’s 2017 class, and the 6-foot-1, 200-pound 3-star prospect stops a turnstile that’s been spinning for a year.
From Johnson to McBride
Exactly 12 months ago — on Dec. 14, 2015 — 5-star quarterback Hunter Johnson flipped from Tennessee to Clemson.
So they targeted Jack Spears and N’Kosi Perry before taking a commitment this summer from CJ Lewis. The Connecticut quarterback had some upside, but struggles during his senior season led Tennessee to explore other options.
Coaches kicked the tires on Hendon Hooker, a Virginia Tech commit, and Jay Urich, a South Carolina commit. They reached out to Mississippi State quarterback commit Keytaon Thompson, too.
Finally, it seemed as if McGill-Toolen (Ala.) quarterback Bubba Thompson would fill the spot, but Tennessee got cold feet when Thompson couldn’t give the school assurances he wouldn’t play pro baseball after the MLB Draft in June.
It’s been a long and winding road, but the Vols ultimately landed on McBride, a duel-threat talent with a solid skill-set and a hunger for competition.
“Tennessee is getting a player that is going to put in the work first and let everything else take care of itself,” McBride said.
“I am able to make plays with my arm and feet. Now it is all about development and becoming the best I can be. The ultimate goal is to win a national championship.”
The Clear Springs product threw for 23 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions in 2016, adding nearly 400 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground as well. His highlight tape is full of explosive runs, deep passes and an amusing dance move.
He has sound mechanics and quick feel, but coaches have been concerned about his height during his recruitment.
The quarterback said his favorite player is Tom Brady but he’s been compared to Johnny Manziel due to his short stature and playmaking ability.
“I like to think we are similar. Not the biggest guys,” McBride said.
Tennessee told McBride it didn’t offer sooner because it wasn’t sure about how tall he truly was.
“My height was marked wrong. They marked me at 6-foot, but I’m really like 6-1, 6-1.5, so they definitely wanted to see me in person,” he explained.
“The first time Coach (Mike) DeBord saw me in person was (last) Thursday and then they offered me that day. They just let me know that if the circumstances had been different they probably would’ve offered a lot earlier.”
A dream come true
McBride was committed to Memphis for nearly six months, but an abbreviated official visit to Tennessee on Sunday left him wrestling with a difficult decision.
He grew up an SEC football fan rooting for LSU, and ultimately, the chance to play in the nation’s best conference “was a dream come true.”
“I came to this decision when I woke up and felt great about being a Vol,” he said.
With Josh Dobbs graduating, Tennessee will have an open competition at quarterback this spring. The battle is most-likely a two-headed race between Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano, but McBride is an early enrollee and will get a chance to throw his hat into the ring, too.
“They told me they want me for a reason. They want me to come in and compete,” McBride said.
“I have a chance to start there. They told me the spot is wide open. They’re trying to win. The best quarterback will play. It’s a business. It’s a competition. You got to beat people out. This is SEC football.”