Bennett Christian has been familiar with the Knoxville area and the Tennessee football program his entire life.
His father, Bill, played for the Vols during the Johnny Majors era, and his mother is a former two-time All-American Tennessee cheerleader. Nearly all of his family lives in Knoxville — 25 minutes away from campus to be exact — and he grew up attending UT games.
The familiarity with the program is why he decided to include the Vols in his final three on Wednesday afternoon. Christian, a 2022 tight end in Allatoona High School in Acworth, Georgia, included Ohio State and Penn State along with Tennessee among his group of finalists.
247Sports currently has Christian ranked as a three-star and the 18th-best tight end in the class of 2022. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound tight end is considered the 26th-best player in the state of Georgia.
“I can really see myself being in that offense,” Christian explained to Rocky Top Insider. “Coach (Jim) Chaney runs a really good ship up there being the offensive coordinator. Coach (Joe) Osovet is an awesome guy as well. All together, that makes Tennessee appealing.”
His interest in Tennessee stems from the relationships he’s built with the coaching staff. And the fact that he grew up a fan of the program.
“I love talking to all the coaches up there,” Christian said. “They’re so awesome. The second thing, I grew up a Tennessee fan. It’s in my blood.
“There’s nothing like it. Walking in, it’s (Neyland Stadium) a huge stadium, the orange and white on the Tennessee river. It feels really good. Even before I was getting recruited by Tennessee, I walked in there like, ‘Man, this is awesome. This is somewhere I would want to play one day.’ And now that I have the opportunity, it’s so surreal, and it’s such a blessing.”
Osovet is entering his first season as Tennessee’s tight ends coach. He served as the Vols’ Director of Player Development in 2018 and the Director of Football Programming in 2019 prior to being named tight ends coach. Osovet has quickly developed a good relationship with Christian.
“It’s smooth,” Christian said. “We talk every week. We’ll call each other and it’ll be good. We get along really well. He’s a really good guy. He’s from New York. I’m from Georgia. We mingle on another level.”
As to what Tennessee has communicated to Christian in regards to his playing ability, it’s similar to what other schools are saying to him. They love how dominant he is as a blocker and that he’s athletic enough to make plays in the passing game.
“They like how good of a complete tight end I am,” Christian stated. “Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt likes old school football, which is what I am. I’m a really physical player, which Coach Pruitt really enjoys.”
Christian doesn’t currently have a timeline to make a decision. In his words, “it could be tomorrow or it could be a year from now.” One thing he is sure of, however, is a school with a real family feel is extremely important to him.
“A place where I feel at home and where I know I’ll be happy there the next four years,” Christian explained. “A coaching staff that I know will be behind me at all times. Teammates that I can bond with like family. Those are the main three things I’m looking for.”
Bennett’s father, Bill, isn’t the only family member who played college football. His uncle, Greg, played collegiate football at Penn State. Bennett Christian has always kept an eye on the Nittany Lions for that reason.
“That’s when I first became interested, because of my uncle,” Christian said. “But not only that, when I’m talking to them, their coaching staff is so welcoming. They’re a really good tight end school. They put a lot of tight ends in the NFL. They use the tight end really well.”
As for Ohio State, the appeal of playing for the Buckeyes is what stands out the most to the former three-sport athlete. Christian also played lacrosse and basketball growing up until his football recruitment blew up following a breakout sophomore season.
“Even before I got recruited, these were my top three schools,” Christian concluded. “The main thing about Ohio Sate is that they’re so good. I like watching Ohio State football, and the fans are awesome, huge stadium, and that all together has been really appealing.”