Southfield, Mich., running back Matthew Falcon, a four-star prospect, has become a household name among UT recruiting fans, emerging as one of the top targets on UT’s board for the 2016 class.
But Falcon isn’t the only UT target that hails from Southfield. Linebacker Will Small (5-11, 210 pounds) is also getting a strong look from the Vols and defensive line coach Steve Stripling is pulling double duty, working on both Falcon and Small. And while they aren’t necessarily a “package deal,” both will be names to watch going forward.
“I met Coach Stripling when he came up to the school and talked to me and my friend Matthew Falcon and we talked for about 20 minutes, had a good meeting with him, and that struck my interest in Tennessee,” said Small.
“I’ve been talking to (Stripling) about playing outside linebacker, of course they’re recruiting me for that, and they said they were recruiting me very heavy and so right now we’re just talking about getting me down there to see the campus and see how they practice. I’m visiting (Tennessee) April 25 for the spring game, so I can see how they play and see how the environment is.”
Small claims an offer from Michigan, his home-state school, and says there’s been a lot of interest coming in from Vanderbilt, Toledo and several other schools. So while the offers haven’t been rolling in for Small yet, he wouldn’t be surprised if Tennessee jumped in with an offer at some point.
“(Me and Coach Stripling) had a very good conversation about that,” Small said. “He said I’m very close to getting one. They haven’t pulled the trigger as of yet, but I’m very close to getting an offer from Tennessee.”
Small considers himself an all-around student-athlete and that will be a big factor in his recruitment. He’s interested in both the football and the athletic sides of things at UT.
“When I come down, I’m really looking for a team that plays like a family and is very family-oriented and that plays hard and fast, that really focuses on playing hard, physical football and of course that explains Tennessee perfectly,” he said. “They’re very football-based and I’m really going down there to see how they value education. I’m very education-based and I want to make sure their players have a top-notch education and if they go somewhere, they can come back and be able to continue their education. They have the VFL setup, and I’m very interested in that. So when I go down there, I’m really looking at those things the most.”
He also sees himself as an all-around player on the field, both physical enough to stop the run and fast enough to help out in pass coverage.
A former running back, Small tries to see the game from the perspective of both sides of the ball and feels ready to take on top competition after practicing against Falcon and playing against the likes of UT signee John Kelly and Ohio State signee Mike Weber.
“My way of playing is that I play smart, but of course my speed is a factor – I run a 4.5 (40-yard dash), so my closing speed as always been a big factor in my game,” he said. “I play physical and I love to hit, so of course that’s always been a good thing for me…
“(Coaches) always let me know that since they’re playing a lot of spread, I’ll be guarding slot receivers, really fast receivers, and so my footwork, I’ve been working on that, so I’m very good at my drops and that gives me a really good advantage against spread offenses.”
Small doesn’t have a definite top five yet and is still letting the process play out, but he had no problem saying Tennessee is close to the top,
“Definitely safe to say,” he said.