Future Volunteer

Handley defensive end Dylan Brooks, the No. 18 ranked prospect in the country, committed to the University of Tennessee over the weekend.

One of the most sought-after football recruits to ever come out of Randolph County has made his decision on where he will play college football.

Handley’s Dylan Brooks, who currently ranks as the No. 18 overall prospect in the country for the class of 2021, committed to the University of Tennessee Sunday afternoon.

Brooks is a rare 5-star prospect, one of just 30 players in his class with that distinction, according to the 247 Sports composite player rankings.

According to Handley head coach Larry Strain Tennessee emerged from a group of contenders that included LSU, Alabama and Auburn.

Strain hosted coaches from all four schools, including head coaches Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron and Jeremy Pruitt, and a handful of others vying for Brooks’s services. But something of a local connection may have helped tip the scales in Tennessee’s favor.

Volunteers’ defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley was heavily involved in recruiting Brooks. Ansley is from nearby Tallassee and was a teammate of Handley assistant coach Cedric Phillips at Troy in the early 2000’s.

“[Dylan] just feels like he can play earlier and he feels at home, he feels comfortable there,” Strain said.

Strain said that he did not push Brooks toward one school over the other, but he encouraged his star defensive end to be sure about his choice once he announced it.

“My thing was, I was not trying to get him to make a choice about any particular school. That’s none of my business,” Strain said. “But I was trying to get him to make sure that he knew where he wanted to go. I told him from the get-go of this whole process, I do not want to be caught up in a situation where this thing is a circus where he commits to one, then he de-commits and opens his recruiting back up. I didn’t want it to be one of those deals. I wanted it to be done right.”

Perhaps heeding that advice, Brooks opened his Twitter post announcing his commitment with the words “Locked In,” followed by a padlock emoji.

Strain said the decision to commit may also have been accelerated by the fact that college coaches are almost solely focused on recruiting while schools and programs are shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The reason you’ve got all these kids committing now is they know they’re not going to be able to take a trip, not going to get to visit anymore,” Strain said. “And all these college coaches, all they’ve got to do all day long is call these kids. And these kids are tired of being called all the time. So I’m sure that has a lot to do with a lot of people committing right now.”

Brooks immediately became the highest ranked recruit in Tennessee’s class, and his commitment vaulted the Vols into the top 10 nationally.

Brooks is the nation’s top-ranked player at his position, weak-side defensive end, and is the number one ranked player in Alabama, one spot ahead of Pinson Valley cornerback Ga’Quincy McKinstry.

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