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Cam Akers will announce his college choice at 8 p.m. tonight.
Can Tennessee score a shocking coup at the final hour?
The Vols are certainly not the favorites to land the electric 5-star tailback from Clinton (Miss.) High, but they’ve quietly remained in the picture all fall. While Akers has no shortage of suitors, it’s a four-team race for the blue-chip tailback, with Florida State, LSU and Ole Miss all heavily in the mix with Tennessee.
Despite rarely talking to the media, Akers’ recruitment has been full of twist and turns in the last few months. Once an Alabama commit, Ole Miss, LSU, Ohio State and FSU have all held the catbird seat at one time or another in his recruitment. But in a bizarro game of musical chairs, the team left standing Tuesday is all that really matters moving forward.
Could it be the Vols?
I don’t think so, but it’s certainly possible.
Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie has relentlessly recruited the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect, establishing a strong relationship with Akers’ mom, Angela.
Gillespie, a fellow Hattiesburg native, watched Clinton’s state championship game sitting alongside a mic’d up Angela.
Akers visited Tennessee twice in the last six months, attending ‘Orange Carpet Day’ in June and the Alabama game in October. Both times his parents made the weekend trips.
That’s no small note, as Akers’ family is close and mom will play a role in his college choice. How much is unknown, though.
Other Tennessee advantages includes Akers’ relationship with 5-star offensive tackle commit Trey Smith and the fact he knows there’s a legitimate opportunity for him to see the field immediately with the Vols. Akers and 4-star tailback commit Ty Chandler could form a dynamic duo that might terrorize the SEC for several seasons.
Butch Jones made that very pitch in his clandestine in-home visit with Akers several weeks ago.
Akers would give Tennessee’s 2017 class a jolt of star-power, capping an impressive early enrollee class, too. Landing the 5-star tailback could also give UT some momentum in January will recruiting guys like 4-star defensive end LaBryan Ray.
Still, it’s hard to believe that the Vols — a school that has never led for the 5-star tailback — could swoop in and steal Akers before the clock strikes midnight. I’ve long said Tennessee’s best bet at poaching Akers was if he delayed enrolling early and opted to take more visits in January.
Instead, he bumped up his decision date.
There’s been so much smoke and speculation about where he’s going, it’s clear some folks are simply guessing — some definitely more educated than others.
But seriously, three schools + Tennessee have exhibited cautious optimism just within the last week. Three weeks ago, the Vols were simply “one of many” on the outside looking in and then suddenly they became a trendy darkhorse pick in the last few days.
Ole Miss folks swear Akers would never leave the ‘Sip, while LSU has been in the mix from the start. Meanwhile, FSU has 19 of the last 20 picks in the 247Sports Crystal Ball this month.
Something’s got to give.
Putting all the pieces together, I find it hard to see Akers coming to the Hill.
We’ll find out tonight if I’m right.