While the fight for elite defensive linemen in the SEC is fierce, it is actually an out-of-conference foe battling the Vols for their most sought after recruit right now. If you are a Tennessee fan and have not heard of DT Danny O’Brien, then two things are true: 1) You must not be following the Vols’ recruiting trail very closely, or, at all really and 2) I am super excited to fill you in about this guy and what’s going on with his recruiting process. As we knew going into this season, and have now seen with our own eyes, the DT position is pretty bare on ole Rocky Top. Coach Dooley and the Vols have been high on the 6’4’’ 275 lb., Michigan native since he visited Knoxville this summer. As of now, it’s safe to say that the battle for O’Brien’sservices is between Tennessee and Michigan. This is not to say that a few new schools won’t eventually join in to make this a royal rumble, but for now that’s not really the case. O’Brien was considered a Tennessee lean in the summer, but the hometown team has gained a lot of ground with him over the last couple of months. Unfortunately for big orange fans, he was in attendance at the Big House for the last second thriller against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Here is what he had to say to Scout.com about his game day experience that Saturday night:
“It was crazy,” he said. “That was the best game day experience I’ve had anywhere. That was amazing! They really stuck it to (Notre Dame). (The Wolverines) didn’t play the best game, but they really fought to the end. That was a big impression on me. It is a great atmosphere (at Michigan). It’s electric. It’s electric. It does a lot.”
“(The committed guys) were crazy, “ he added laughingly. “They didn’t really have to do any (recruiting), though. (The overall experience) kind of did (the recruiting) itself.”
And when asked if he could see himself fitting into a future Maize & Blue defense, the game’s strong impression instantly became more evident.
“Oh yeah,” replied O’Brien with an obvious grin. “Who wouldn’t want to play in the biggest stadium with the most people who ever saw a college football game? Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
At the time, after reading those comments, you would have been hard pressed to find a big orange fan that didn’t think he was as good as gone. However, the more I thought about it, the more something odd stuck out to me. Why in the world would O’Brien have not committed that night? What better atmosphere could you ask for? He had an offer, so I mean think about it – he just experienced a game that came down to the last second, his team won the game, and he was around all of his friends and potential teammates when it happened. And it’s not like he didn’t commit because he wanted to wait until the end of his senior season, because he recently said he is committing before his high school Homecoming game on October 7th. Also, I was kind of baffled when he didn’t even commit the following week. So from that point on, recruiting analysts and insiders alike, including Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt who said, “I like Tennessee’s chances,” have expressed their belief that O’Brien is likely to choose the Vols on the 7th. Not to mention, he is visiting Knoxville on October 15th for the LSU game. Why would he visit Tennessee again right after committing to Michigan the week before? My guess is this: O’Brien has been a “silent commitment” to Coach Dooley for quite a while now.
Most people think this strategy by a kid is pointless, or even fake, but I couldn’t disagree more. Just follow me here… Let’s say O’Brien knows he wants to be a Vol way before National Signing Day (summer/early fall), but knows that with living in Michigan, if he commits to Tennessee he will be hated on and pressured all the way ‘til February. So by giving his verbal to Dooley and asking him to keep it quiet, he can enjoy this once in a lifetime process that very few get to experience. He gets to travel free of charge to several elite programs to watch college football, and most importantly, he gets to avoid all the pressure put on him by his peers and bitter fans from Michigan. So while this theory could be wrong, I say feel good about O’Brien Vol fans. I predict we’ll see him commit to Tennessee on the 7th and then follow it up with a visit to truly get to know his new football family.