Take note, my friend, of this humble creed: If at first you don't succeed, eh, screw it and join a rival instead.
Such is the moral of the saga of Dante Phillips, a four-star defensive tackle prospect from Venice, Fla., who now plans to enroll at Tennessee after being unexpectedly denied admission to Florida this month. (According to his stepfather, Damon Wilson, Phillips was cleared by the NCAA, but rejected by the university; a subsequent appeal was denied. "We were kind of blindsided," Wilson said.) Phillips was in Knoxville on Tuesday for a tour of UT's campus and told a local radio station Wednesday that he's already signed scholarship papers after being academically cleared by the university. Because he never enrolled at Florida, he'll be immediately eligible to play this fall.
Phillips is generally listed in the 6-foot-5, 270-pound range (although his reported weight goes as high as 325), with unanimous four-star ratings from the major recruiting sites. He'll also have at least as good a chance of getting on the field for the Vols than he would have in Gainesville: Although veteran tackles Daniel Hood and Maurice Couch combined for 12 starts last year as sophomores, depth may be an issue, and Phillips' size should give him the versatility to play all three down-line positions in Tennessee's new 3-4 scheme. First-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri is a proud graduate of Saban University, and figures to favor the same jumbo-sized ends he oversaw as Alabama's defensive line coach.
Whenever he manages to crack the lineup, Phillips fits the mold. And if he happens to crack it by the time Florida is scheduled to visit Neyland Stadium on Sept. 15, I'm sure his now former teammates will greet him with nothing but healthy, good-natured respect.