A few hours after Tennessee fired head coach Butch Jones on Sunday, College of the Canyons defensive end Dorian Gerald decided it was time to cut ties — at least temporarily — with the school as well.
“It was kind of a no-brainer, honestly,” Gerald said. “I had such a great relationship with (Jones). We would talk on the phone every day and he would send pictures to me on Saturday’s of what their stadium looked like.
“Not only did he make me feel comfortable, he made my family feel comfortable.”
Gerald said he was caught off guard by the firing but was aware Jones’ job may have be in jeopardy with the Volunteers out to a 4-6 start this season. Gerald, who’s ranked as the No. 1 junior college strong-side defensive end, according to 247Sports, has no shortage of NCAA Division 1 offers — 30 to be exact.
But the bond he developed with Jones and offensive line coach Walt Wells made the decision a tough one to swallow.
“I remember when I went on my unofficial visit (in June), my parents felt like they could leave me there that day,” Gerald said. “(Jones) is a genuine guy and they saw that, too. I knew right away that’s where I wanted to be.
“… In my head, I have to essentially find my new Tennessee.”
Since reopening his recruitment, Gerald has had 15 new coaches contact him. He said many coaches in the Pac 12 and Big 12 backed off once he committed to Tennessee in July. He expects of a flurry of offers to roll in over the next few weeks. He already holds offers to schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and South Carolina.
“For my skillset, playing in the Pac-12, Big 12 or ACC would suit me best because they throw the ball around and spread things out,” said Gerald, who has eight sacks in his sophomore year with the Cougars. “California has also made a big impression on me. I wouldn’t mind staying out here given the chance.”
Gerald, a native of Florence, S.C., referenced UCLA and USC as some schools he would consider if offered. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive end had to push back a visit to South Carolina that was scheduled this weekend due to COC’s bowl game Saturday.
He plans to visit South Carolina in January and is still deciding whether to use an official or unofficial visit, due to his familiarity with the school. He may still take an official visit to Tennessee, depending on how quickly its new coaching staff is in place.
The only visit Gerald has set in stone is to Louisville on Dec. 8. He acknowledged it would be an honor to represent his home state by going to South Carolina, but was irked by how late it took the program to join his recruiting trail.
“The prep school I went to in South Carolina was literally across the street from Williams-Brice Stadium and I reached out to them a bunch,” Gerald said. “It doesn’t bother me anymore, but I was doing the same things there that I’m doing now. They’re on the same playing field as everyone else for me.”
Gerald has gotten accustomed to meeting with some of college football’s most prominent coaches, and said for every team that he’s been offered by, he’s been in contact with the head coach.
A few weeks ago Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin traveled from College Station, Texas, to scout Gerald at Cougar Stadium.
“It’s weird because the coaches are kind of like celebrities as well,” Gerald said. “But after a while, you realize you’ve got to put that aside and really find out who you’re going to play for.”
Unlike a majority of junior college recruits, Gerald can essentially hand-pick which school he wants to play for. He was quick to thank COC for its contribution to his ascent.
“It’s hard saying this is going to be my last game (on Saturday),” Gerald said. “They call me “DG” but they make up what is ‘DG.’ Without them, I’m just regular Dorian.