Tennessee impresses 2019 defensive end; new OL coach Walt Wells’ impact on trail
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Ani Izuchukwu is still learning all about the recruiting process.
A native of Nigeria, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore defensive end moved to the U.S. two years ago, and has seen his stock soar since becoming a Tennessee transplant in 2015.
Izuchukwu plays at Nashville’s Davidson Academy and is ranked a 4-star prospect by 247Sports. The 2019 recruit is a top 100 player, holding early offers from Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
Izuchukwu tripped to Tennessee for the third time last weekend for Junior Day, hanging out with a slew of other top prospects from the Nashville area.
“I had a good time,” he said. “It was good talking with (the coaches). This is like the second time — same thing that happened when I went to Alabama — I had good conversation with them today. I had fun.”
Izuchukwu was again impressed on his visit and continues to “try to learn more about the school, education” at Tennessee. He’s intrigued by the idea of possibility making Rocky Top his new “home” after leaving Nigeria.
Last Saturday, the sophomore defensive end also had a chance to meet Brady Hoke, the Vols’ new defensive line coach.
“He let us know he’s new,” Izuchukwu said. “He’s cool.”
Izuchukwu is taking things slow, but he plans to go on a barnstorming tour this summer to solidify “a top 10 or top 5 before” his junior year. He joked that he “hates long car rides,” so he’s trying to knock out most of the lengthy visits over the next few months.
The Vols are certainly an early contender in Izuchukwu’s recruitment. He’s looking for a program he “can really trust.”
Wells’ impact on recruiting trail
After Tennessee parted ways with offensive line coach Don Mahoney earlier this month, Walt Wells immediately earned a promotion from quality control assistant to on-field coach.
The veteran offensive line coach is a Tennessee native and has strong ties to the Volunteer State.
While the team expects a very smooth transition from Mahoney to Wells, the newly-minted OL coach should immediately upgrade the Vols’ recruiting profile in the state, too.
Wells played at Austin Peay, graduated from Belmont and started his coaching career as a high school assistant at Smyrna. Wells’ brother also coaches at Riverdale in Murfreesboro.
“He has an ability to relate to a lot of guys in the room,” senior offensive lineman Jashon Robertson said recently. “Especially somebody like me. He’s from Nashville himself, so he has that same kind of pride in this place like I have, like a lot of us Tennessee natives have.
“For him, this is a dream job. It’s a dream come true. I can’t wait to see what he does with the opportunity.”
Wells was key in helping Tennessee identity and ultimately land offensive tackle K’Rojhn Calbert in the 2017 class. The assistant is also the lead recruiter for important 2018 prospects like 4-star defensive tackle D’Andre Litaker, offensive guard Ollie Lane and offensive tackle Maxwell Iyama.
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