Edgewater wide receiver Alton ‘Pig’ Howard is reassessing his commitment to Tennessee following the program’s recent coaching upheaval.
“Well I’m still considering UCF, Florida, West Virginia. I’m still going to be patient, you know, with Tennessee,” Howard told the Sentinel following practice for the Under Armour All-America game. “[They’re] still number one, but at the same time they’ve been having some dilemmas. So I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going on. A lot of coaches have left on their own. I think I heard a couple coaches got fired.”
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley has lost four assistants from the 2011 staff following a 5-7 campaign.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebacker coach Peter Sirmon made lateral moves, taking jobs at Washington, while special teams coach Eric Russell has joined Washington State.
Receivers coach Charlie Baggett quit in December.
The turnover has opened Dooley up to criticism from local media and Howard said that he’s heard rumors of Dooley possibly being fired.
“I know that a lot of coaching staff have left due to the way things are going as far as the program,” Howard said. “A lot of people said they don’t like Dooley as a head coach, but from my point of view, I thought he was a cool, laidback guy. I guess coaches come and go nowadays. That’s part of recruiting.”
Because his time has been consumed with the Under Armour practices, Howard hasn’t been able to check in with Dooley and the remaining members of his staff. He also hasn’t talked to coaches from any other school.
Howard — ranked No.3 on the Sentinel’s 2012 Central Florida Super60 — committed to the Volunteers in December, picking Tennessee over UCF and Florida, but he said the perceived instability in the program definitely has him reevaluating his status with Tennessee.
“It’s kind of like a gamble or what not,” Howard said. “You don’t want to go into a program and then the whole coaching staff ends up getting fired. … I’m just being patient and trying to make sure I make the right decision.”
Howard said that he’s still committed to Tennessee and that the Vols are still his favorite school, but added that “anything is possible.” He said that if he decides to not leave the state, he’ll decide between UCF and Florida.
Howard plans to get in contact with UCF and UF coaches within the next few days, but his plate is kind of full with Thursday's Under Armour All-American Game (7:30 p.m., ESPN, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg).
"I'm probably going to talk to some of the West Virginia coaches, some of the UCF coahces and I'll probably hit Aubrey Hill (UF receivers coach) up, and ... catch up on things," he said.
“You always have to have a backup plan, man. Just in case things don’t go your way.”
Howard, who was planning to try to graduate early, confirmed Tuesday night that he will not be enrolling early in college.