“Coaches tell me that they like my aggressive nature. I’ve always been that way. I’ve had good instincts. I’ve been catching the football ever since I could walk. To me it’s not about what’s going on around me. It’s my love and passion for the game. I live to knock the piss out of someone and de-cleat them. I love to look up in the stands and see 100,000 going crazy. It’s what I live for. It’s what I’ve always done. I’m never going to give up. I’m relentless. It’s do-or-die time every play.”
— DALTON SANTOS
At first, it appeared to be an Alabama and Texas A&M battle. Then, even though he had a terrific visit to Knoxville a couple of weeks ago, it still appeared distance would win in the end and he’d stay in the Lonestar State. Somewhere along the way, the University of Tennessee just stuck with Van, Texas, middle linebacker Dalton Santos.
And on Friday, the middle linebacker who is thought by many to be the top inside LB prospect in the nation, spurned his homestate Aggies and committed to Tennessee and new linebackers coach Peter Sirmon. It’s easily the most important commitment of a UT class that is vital from a need standpoint — and there’s perhaps no bigger need than linebacker.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder is a dominant run-stopper and keen instincts, and his attributes led to him being ranked as ESPN’s top overall MLB prospect in the nation and No. 92-ranked player overall. He is 247 Sports’ 90th-ranked player overall and a four-star player. Scout also has him as a four-star player and the fourth-ranked MLB in the country. Rivals laughably has him as just a three-star, despite offers from some of the top teams in the country.
Santos — who first committed to Oklahoma State — chose the Vols over Texas A&M and Alabama, but he also had offers from Arkansas, Michigan, Mizzou, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and others.
A couple of weeks ago before Santos visited Knoxville, he expected to make his decision between Alabama and A&M. But he had a blast in Knoxville and really fell in love with the philosophy of Sirmon and UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The potential to be coached by somebody who had just been in the NFL was a big lure — but he could also get that in College Station with Dat Nguyen.
But you knew UT had a chance when he told GVX247 that “if it was about the distance then Tennessee wouldn’t be in it.” Still, after being quiet for several weeks and with the momentum A&M has built lately in the national picture and in recruiting, this one just felt like we were going to finish bridesmaid again. Perhaps that’s what makes this such a big deal, but in all honesty, it’s because he was the top priority on the linebacker board, and he’s going to be a Vol. It’s really a huge get for Sirmon and head coach Derek Dooley, especially considering it will soften the blow of five-star offensive tackle D.J. Humphries choosing Florida over UT tonight [though the Vols assuredly won't stop recruiting him.]
As for Santos, others won’t quit calling him, either, but he said his family would pick up and move with him wherever he went, so maybe this is a good thing for UT. It seems that Santos really wants to be at Tennessee when he could be almost anywhere and, as he said Friday, Tennessee is a program on the rise, and he just wants to be part of that tradition. Santos is Tennessee’s 13th commitment of the 2012 class and joins Justin King, Otha Peters and Khalid Henderson as LB commits.
Here are some clips of Santos in action: