The latest to boast a Big Orange offer is 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete Dante Dowdell of Picayune, Miss. His offer came in on Monday and it was the first real move by the Volunteers to get in the picture.
“I talked to coach [Jerry] Mack and he said he loved everything about me,” the running back told Volquest. “He said that I’m exactly what they are looking for in a running back. That’s when he offered me.”
The two parties have texted some in recent weeks, but Monday’s conversation was the first time Mack spoke to the prospect on the phone. There wasn’t much context to the conversation – just that an offer was made and the Volunteers have interest.
Mack hopes the interest can begin to build, mutually, following this starting point.
“We didn’t go into too much detail yet, but he did say that I would fit perfectly in their offense,” Dowdell said. “They are kind of looking for a bigger back and that’s what I am.”
Operating in a run-heavy offense, the newest Tennessee target receives the bulk of the work in the Picayune High School system. Dowdell rushed for over 2,500 yards as a junior and scored 28 touchdowns in the process.
When asked what type of back he is with the ball in his hands, it didn’t take long for Dowdell to answer.
“Derrick Henry,” the prospect said, laughing. “I’m a guy that’s going to run through someone, not around. I’ve got a good stiff arm, too.”
Physicality is the name of his game, but he’s got some wheels too. The 2023 prospect has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and is also used as a receiver out of the backfield.
Recently, Dowdell took part in the Under Armour Camp Series in Atlanta. The good showing only fueled the flame that’s been burning hot for the prospect in recent weeks as his offer count has climbed to around 18.
“I performed pretty well at the camp. It was a really great experience,” Dowdell said. “I’ve always been a good player. I guess it just took some of these coaches to get the film on the table to see. It just took a little while for the film to get out there.”
“Coach Mack sent me the spring schedule for Tennessee,” the prospect said. “I still have to check with all the other visits I have scheduled, but I definitely plan on visiting there.”
And though it’s just the beginning of the relationship building process for Dowdell with Tennessee’s coaching staff – that didn’t stop him from doing some quick research on the program after picking up the offer this week.
“I went back and watched Alvin Kamara highlights when he was there. I watched Jalen Hurd too,” Dowdell concluded. “This is a team I’d be interested in building that bond with – most definitely.”
For Tennessee to really get in the conversation, the Volunteers will need to get the bigger running back on campus sometime this spring.
Dante Dowdell has heard plenty from Tennessee since getting a scholarship offer from the Vols more than a month ago. He soon will get to see for himself what they have to offer.
The four-star Class of 2023 running back from Picayune (Miss.) Memorial High School said he’s scheduled to visit Tennessee on Monday to attend one of the Vols’ spring practices. He said he has been in frequent contact with them over the past several weeks, and he’s looking forward to visiting them for the first time.
“They’re definitely recruiting me hard,” said Dowdell, who’s ranked the No. 300 overall prospect and No. 20 running back in the 2023 class, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite. “I talk to (Tennessee running backs) coach (Jerry) Mack a lot.
“He’s just saying (Tennessee is) rebuilding up there, so he said he needs a big running back. That’s what he’s looking for: a big running back.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Dowdell said Tennessee is one of several schools recruiting him hardest, along with Oregon, Ole Miss, Florida State, Louisville and Arkansas. The Vols are one of a few teams he’s planning to visit over the next several days, with trips to Arkansas on Saturday and Alabama on April 16 also on his schedule.
While he has never been to Tennessee’s campus, he said he likes what he has heard about the Vols so far and decided he would “definitely like to check it out."
“I know Peyton Manning and Jamal Lewis went there, and I know (Tennessee) just got a five-star quarterback,” Dowdell said, referring to Vols quarterback commitment Nicholaus Iamaleava of Long Beach, Calif.
“I know the history behind it. I know the history behind the school.”
Dowdell, who also visited Oregon last weekend, said he hasn’t gotten a firsthand look at many schools to this point. Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Florida State are among the other programs that have hosted him so far.
“There’s a lot of places I haven’t been,” he said. “This is the most traveling I ever did, this year, going to all these different places because of all these different offers and stuff. I kind of got started a little bit later than a lot of people do. A lot of people get started freshman, sophomore year.
“I haven’t really visited everywhere, so I really wouldn’t know (who is standing out).”
Iamaleava’s commitment to Tennessee caught Dowdell’s attention, and he said the Vols having a coveted quarterback in their class could help their cause in his recruitment.
“I looked at it,” he said. “The main thing I look at, when you go into an offense, is will (they) use the running back a lot? The quarterback obviously has to be good, because he’s running the offense, and the offensive linemen. You’ve got to have the good guys up front — good guys up front and a good quarterback.”
He said he’s also hoping to find a school where he can get “early playing time.”
“Good coaching staff, too — nice head coach, somebody who’s going to be able to hold his ground, be there for a little while,” Dowdell added. “All the coaching changes and stuff get crazy. But if you’re a good coach, you’re a good coach.”
For now, Dowdell admitted he doesn’t “really” know much about Tennessee’s offense. He expects to change that during Monday’s visit.
“To be honest, I know I’m getting recruited and stuff, but I really haven’t watched too much college football,” he said. “I have certain players I like to watch and stuff, but I’m not like an, ‘Oh, my god,’ fanatic like some people who are crazy about college football. I’m crazy about playing football. But as far as being a fan, like, I’m a fan of certain players and just certain teams and stuff.
“But now, this year, I’m actually going to have to watch because that’s going to be my future. That’s going to be the future I’m going into, so I’m going to actually have to watch every game. …
“A lot of people compare me to, like, an Adrian Peterson. I like Adrian Peterson. Derrick Henry’s my favorite running back, but Adrian Peterson is also my favorite running back. But I think, with my build and different things, I think I might be more on the path to being an Adrian Peterson type of run style — the size, how he’s built, how he runs, the violent run style — different things like that.”