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When he committed to Vanderbilt over the summer, Rivals250 defensive tackle Michael Sawyers was assured by James Franklin that the coach was in it for the long haul. But after flirtations with several other schools and even a few NFL teams, Sawyer isn't sure if he can count on Franklin seeing out his full career with the Commodores.
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"I was thinking Vanderbilt was more of a long-term thing with Coach Franklin," the Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth product said. "That's kind of getting to me right now. I'm still committed to Vanderbilt and I feel like if we keep this class together we can still be good, but I've just decided that I'm going to take a couple of official visits and see how things play out."
Since the reports that Franklin had taken Penn State job began to surface, Sawyers has heard from programs from all over the country, including Notre Dame, Texas, South Carolina, UCLA, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Georgia Tech.
With less than a month until signing day, Sawyers said he plans on taking at least three official visits. He's already set one to Ole Miss for Jan. 24, with Texas and Vanderbilt the favorites to get visits on Jan. 17 and Jan. 24. There's also the possibility of the Commodores getting a mid-week visit so he can squeeze in trips to Notre Dame or Tennessee.
He gave his thoughts on each of the schools now in the mix:
Notre Dame: "It's a really nice school and the academics are amazing. I feel like I can get some early playing time and get a great education. Playing as a freshman at a school like Notre Dame would really mean a lot to me."
Texas: "I feel like I could go there and compete for playing time. Everything about Texas would be great, the tradition, all that stuff. I think it's the kind of place you go to for an official visit and fall in love. I'm pretty sure they have a spot for me. Coach (Charlie) Strong is really still looking at the recruits they have and trying to make a decision. But I love Coach Strong and the coaches he's bringing with him from Louisville. I really like them when Louisville was recruiting me - I just didn't like what the school had to offer that much. But that staff was amazing."
Ole Miss: "Ole Miss was one of my final schools before I chose Vanderbilt. They've been in it for a while now. The chance to play with a good young defensive line like that is exciting. Plus it's the SEC, so that's appealing, too."
Tennessee: "Tennessee is a school I visited earlier in the process, but when I took the trip a lot of the coaches weren't there, so I didn't get the full experience. But I like Coach (Butch) Jones and I love Coach (Tommy) Thigpen. I really think I'm going to take an official visit there and see if I can get the whole vibe of what they have to offer. Tennessee is the one school that has kept on recruiting me throughout the whole process and I know Rashaan Gaulden and Josh Malone really well, so we'll see how it goes when I go down there."
Sawyers said he's legitimately torn by the Franklin news and still isn't really sure what to think.
"It's going to a rough decision for me to make," Sawyers said. "If he leaves, do I leave? If he stays, do I stay? I still love Vanderbilt and I'll be excited if he stays, but I have to look out for myself."
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is Sawyers' primary recruiter at Vanderbilt and Saywers said the two have been talking, but beating around the bush when it comes to the topic at hand.
"They haven't told me they're coming back," Sawyers said. "They haven't mentioned it. We're just kind of avoiding the topic."
While other visits are on the table, Sawyers said Vanderbilt will still get the final crack.
"I won't commit until I visit Vanderbilt again," he said. "Vanderbilt is my home. My mom and my family loves Vanderbilt. I love all the coache,s but if it doesn't work out I understand. I can't really blame them."
Woody Wommack is a Southeast Region football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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