Carson Gentle saw no need to wait any longer. Although he still has two more seasons left in his high school career, the McCallie School rising junior defensive end went public with his commitment to the University of Tennessee on Saturday.
"I've grown up a UT fan, and it's always been my dream to play for them," said the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Gentle, who projects to play strongside defensive end at the next level. "I love the new coaching staff and what they've done the past 18 months. They're on the right trajectory. I think they'll prepare me for the NFL, and I want to be a part of helping them become a championship program."
Gentle, who also had offers from Ole Miss, Virginia Tech and Indiana, had recently narrowed his choices to Tennessee and Stanford.
A rare freshman starter for McCallie, which has claimed the last three Division II-AAA state championships, Gentle showed noticeable improvement in his sophomore season, finishing with 38 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks at linebacker. On offense, he played tight end.
Gentle has likely outgrown linebacker now and is expected to move to defensive end this season.
"He has all the physical markers of someone who will play at a very high level," said McCallie head coach and defensive coordinator Ralph Potter. "Carson has a great attitude, he's very coachable and is a really good teammate who, besides being really big and strong, is very fast and athletic.
"His genetics have kicked in and he's gotten even stronger this offseason, so he's on a path to big things."
Currently rated a three-star prospect and the state's No. 7 overall recruit by 247Sports.com, Gentle is the second Vols commitment for the 2024 signing class, joining IMG Academy five-star athlete Jonathan Echols.
Gentle's older brothers - twins Austin and Jack - are offensive linemen at Harvard, and his dad, T.J., was a starter on the 1992 Marion County state championship team that upset nationally-ranked Brentwood Academy and later played at Middle Tennessee State University.
"I went to UT camp recently, and then I noticed the other camps I've gone to - I didn't have the same feeling about the staffs or the programs, so I decided it was time to go ahead and make it official," Gentle said. "When I spoke with (defensive line) Coach (Rodney) Garner and Coach (Josh) Heupel, they were pretty excited and told me they believe I'll be an asset.
"I've spoken a lot with Coach Garner, and he keeps telling me that I remind him a lot of (former Georgia and Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman) David Pollack. Now I can just concentrate on trying to make McCallie the best team we can be and allowing them to coach me to be the best player I can be."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis