KNOXVILLE - Tennessee's linebacker class went from three to one in a matter of days leading up to today's national signing day.
The Volunteers lost their second committed recruit at the position Tuesday when Otha Peters switched to Arkansas a couple of days following his official visit there. The four-star prospect from Covington High School in Louisiana will sign with the Razorbacks this morning.
His departure likely leaves Dunwoody (Ga.) High School's Justin King as the Vols' lone linebacker signee.
Peters did not respond to text messages from the Times Free Press on Tuesday, but Covington coach Malter Scobel explained the player's decision to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
"Otha had some valid reasons to make his change," Scobel said. "It wasn't anything silly. Tennessee's up against a different challenge than they are in Arkansas. Otha was very straightforward with Tennessee about the decision, and I think they still would like to have him."
The 6-foot-1, 223-pound Peters was rated by Rivals as the No. 126 overall player in the country, the No. 4 player in Louisiana and the No. 6 inside linebacker nationally. He made 160 tackles and 10 tackles for loss with 8.5 sacks this past season to earn a selection to the all-state team in Class 5A, the largest classification in Louisiana. Peters played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Dallas in late December and earned the game's defensive MVP and "linebacker of the year" honors.
Dalton Santos, ESPN's top-rated inside linebacker in the country, switched his pledge from Tennessee to Texas on Sunday following his official visit to Austin last weekend. The Longhorns made an offer to the 6-3, 250-pounder from Van, Texas, early last week. He had committed to the Vols in August.
In an interview with the Times Free Press late last week, Peters said UT fans had little to worry about as he prepared to visit Arkansas.
"Not really, no sir," he said. "I'm going just to be 100 percent sure Tennessee is the place for me."
UT was the place for Peters when he committed in July, one month after attending a camp in Knoxville. Even the early-January departures of UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon weren't enough to make Peters renege on his decision.
UT coach Derek Dooley hired Alabama outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri as defensive coordinator shortly before Peters' official to Knoxville earlier this month.
"I'm grateful they hired Coach Sal, because at Alabama he coached some of the best linebackers in the country for the past three years," Peters said last week. "To be able to play for him is a big thing, a really big thing."
The home-state LSU Tigers never offered Peters, but he held scholarship offers from Arizona, Nebraska, Texas A&M, TCU, Ole Miss and Pittsburgh, among others.
"It felt like family," Peters said of his decision to pick UT. "Coach Sal, Coach TJ [defensive backs coach Terry Joseph], Coach Dooley and all the players, it's like one big family. The environment is great, the fans love the football and they love their UT players. They love everything about Tennessee."
Those weren't enough to keep Peters from flipping in the 23rd hour.