Tennessee is working hard to get back in the race for ESPN 150 cornerback and USC Trojans commit Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy). Apparently, it's going to take a lot more work.
The Volunteers have put the hard press on the No. 1 prospect in the state. Ramsey said he has spoken to new UT coach Butch Jones, running backs coach Jay Graham, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and tight ends coach Mark Elder since the group was hired this month.
Jones was hired to replace Derek Dooley, who was fired after the 2012 season, and Dooley never had a strong connection with Ramsey. Unlike Dooley, Jones has a history of success at various programs.
"I've been hearing the same thing that I've heard in years past. 'This is the new Tennessee,' Ramsey said in an interview with WNML in Knoxville. "You always hear that. That's not to put them down ... Every program he's been at has been successful. But it's just hard to believe when you hear that year after year after year, like 'This is the new Tennessee.'
"You just have to see stuff change for Tennessee for me to really have faith in them. Because unlike other recruits and athletes who were raised in Tennessee, I didn't grow up a Vol fan so it was kind of like, for me, they were just like every other school. I was going to look at them and if it was best for me then that's where I was going to go."
The four-star prospect has been committed to USC since July, but he has taken official visits to Florida, Mississippi State and Washington, and expressed at least a modicum of interest in other schools. He will take his official visit to USC on Jan. 18.
Originally, Ramsey was planning an official visit to Alabama, but now that doesn't seem likely. The nation's No. 48 prospect said he'll take his fifth official visit to either Florida State, Oregon or Tennessee.
"I'll consider Tennessee just as much as I'll consider Florida State and Oregon for that official, because really they're all at the same point," he said. "I'm really just looking at all of them kind of equally right now, trying to feel it out and see which one I'll put in that spot for an official."
Ramsey said his relationship with Dooley wasn't bad but added, "I don't want to say it was great or anything. I was up there seven times while he was the head coach and I talked to him every time and he expressed to me how they wanted me and things like that, which is fine. It wasn't a bad relationship at all but it wasn't great, like I've had better with other coaches."
Ramsey's primary recruiter at USC is receivers coach Tee Martin. A former Tennessee quarterback, Martin turned down the same position at Tennessee last week. There was plenty of speculation that Martin could have swayed Ramsey to Tennessee had he joined the Vols' staff.
"I know he would have recruited me hard if he was at Tennessee, just like he's done at USC, but I don't think it would have mattered that much to be honest," Ramsey said. "Yeah, we have a great relationship now. He has a great relationship with my family now and he's a great recruiter. But at the end of the day he's not my position coach."
While other schools continue to chase Ramsey, it seems unlikely they'll be able to nab him. As per the Trojans' wishes, his official visit to USC will be his final one, which will give them the last word in his recruitment.
"They know at the end of the day they get the last visit," Ramsey said. "If anything was to happen, they know they could sway me back on that last visit."