One of the jewels of the Mississippi State 2010 class had been four-star running back Rajion Neal of Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek High School - at least until he visited Knoxville over the weekend. With some doubts about the situation at Mississippi State and increased interest from the Volunteers, Neal took an official visit to Knoxville and on Thursday, he committed.
"We have committed to Tennessee today," Neal said on Thursday evening. "It was a place that I was always interested in with it being close by and having friends and family come out there and growing up watching them. Coach Lane Kiffin recruited us a little bit and then when Coach Dooley got there he came and watched my film and felt that I was a back that they wanted in their program."
Despite the interest that had been growing in Tennessee, Neal had also been experiencing some doubt with his situation in Starkville.
"We just felt that we committed kind of early and didn't get to see other schools and worried about the over-recruitment of the tailback situation. That's what made us kind of open our doors and see what's around and try to get to see other schools."
Though the tailback situation at Mississippi State gave Neal some cause for concern, the Tennessee tailback position gives him cause for optimism. A back like Bryce Brown already in place at Tennessee gets Neal excited for his opportunities.
"I wouldn't mind playing with a kid that was the number one tailback when he came out," he said. "I wouldn't mind having that experience of having someone show me the ropes and bring me along like Hardesty did with him last year."
Neal was rated the No. 2 back in the state of Georgia by Rivals.com and he is confident that new head coach Derek Dooley will use him effectively on the next level. Neal also expressed faith in the head coach's background as someone that will be able to keep the Tennessee program pointed in the right direction.
"With his record, it seems like he's a guy that knows what he's doing and what he likes in a back," he said. "It's something that makes the running back a big part of the team. With him being able to coach with Nick Saban at LSU and coach those backs and go on to Miami and Louisiana Tech, I really felt that really interested and just really wanted to be there."
The commitment to Tennessee came even amid growing interest from other programs. He picked up offers from Cincinnati and Penn State recently and but elected to stay close to home.
Neal is rated a four-star prospect and the No. 11 player in the state of Georgia.