Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and RTI contributor Charley Collier contributed to this article.
If the Vols want to pull off a massive upset during the early signing period, they’ll be presented that chance on Wednesday morning.
Four-star defensive end and current Alabama commit Justin Eboigbe tweeted out on Tuesday night that he plans to sign to his college of choice at 11:30 AM Eastern on Wednesday, but he left the door open for three other schools besides the Tide to get his signature. He included Tennessee, Miami, and Florida along with Alabama as the teams he’s choosing from for his “final decision.”
— Justin Eboigbe (@JustinEboigbe) December 19, 2018
Eboigbe has been committed to Alabama since mid-June, but the Vols haven’t stopped pushing for him even after his commitment.
Tennessee was one of the first schools to offer Eboigbe, who plays for Forest Park down in Georgia, back in January. In April, he listed the Vols in his top five schools, but he committed to Alabama in June. But he took an unofficial visit to see Tennessee when the Vols hosted Kentucky, and he was part of a big recruiting weekend that saw the Vols upset the Wildcats.
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Since then, Eboigbe has taken an unofficial visit to Alabama and has officially visited both the Tide and Miami. If you’re a believer in the “follow the visits” philosophy in tracking recruiting, then Alabama has a decided edge over any other school. He’s taken six visits to Tuscaloosa since February of this year.
The Vols’ coaching staff have continued to push for Eboigbe to flip from Alabama to Tennessee, and maybe their efforts will be rewarded on Wednesday morning. But the Vols do still seem like a long shot here.
The first thing that stands out about Eboigbe is his size. At 6-foot-4, 263 pounds, he is a big man. Pairing that size with his motor is what really takes him to the next level, though. He gets off the ball very quickly, and he keeps that same tempo through the echo of the whistle. His strength is on display all throughout his highlights, as he occasionally slings offensive lineman out of the way with ease. He is good both against the run and the pass, and he can close down space very well in pursuit. He isn’t afraid to get his head in there and play physical and is a pretty sure tackler. He shows great bend as a pass rusher.
Nobody is flawless though. Eboigbe is still a raw player and has some technically unsound characteristics. His pad level is consistently too high. Defensive lineman can’t expose their numbers like he does, because a good offensive lineman can easily get their hands inside and have leverage. He also tends to get too chesty sometimes defending the run. Rather than getting leverage and separating, he tries to dip the shoulder and slide by, and that will never work in the SEC. His footwork isn’t always that crisp either; sometimes he appears to step inside of himself.
However, the improvement from his junior season to his senior season is very noticeable, which is a promising sign for his future development. And all the knocks against him are things good coaching can fix.
We will have full coverage of Eboigbe’s announcement at 11:30 AM Eastern regardless of where he signs.