Memphis athlete Dallan Hayden is no stranger to Rocky Top. After all, his father Aaron starred for the Vols back in the early 90s and he's been to countless games and events through the years. He camped at Tennessee last summer and is a major target for the Vols in the 2022 class. He was in Knoxville last weekend and loved what he saw.
"I feel like it was a good visit," Hayden said. "I got to talk to coach (Derrick) Ansley, coach (Jeremy) Pruitt and coach (Jay) Graham. They told me they are recruiting me as an athlete. Coach Pruitt's exact words were that I'm a football player and that I have good instincts. I'm fast, good feet and I tackle very well. I do a lot of things well."
Having worked exclusively at cornerback last summer, Hayden liked the pitch of being an athlete without a predetermined position from the staff.
"I don't care where I play as long as I'm on the field," Hayden said. "I just want to play. I know I can help some school, whether that is here or not. It means a lot that they see that potential in me, but honestly it just drives me to improve more."
Hayden likes both Ansley and Pruitt and his comfort level with the top Vol only increases with each meeting.
"The comfort level is there because it's not my first time talking to coach Pruitt," Hayden said. "He seems like a straight up guy who is a tough love coach which is what you need. He's doing a great job right now."
And then there is Graham, who Hayden has known since he was a much younger kid. The former Vol running back turned new Vol running backs coach also spent time with the middle Hayden last weekend.
"He was recruiting me at Texas A&M," Hayden said. "He was in different colors, but he is back home. He and my dad played together and so they were telling old stories about how Jay was going through the ropes when he was a freshman and how my dad was a big brother to him."
So where does Hayden feel like he thrives between the white lines? And where does he have to continue to improve?
"I feel like I have good ball skills, but I feel like I can improve just like my footwork can improve," Hayden said.
And with spring rapidly approaching, Hayden looks forward to spring practice and eventually his junior season.
"I'm very excited," Hayden said. "Coach McDaniel has told me that he expects me to take on a leadership role and be a leader for my teammates so we have a better year. I look forward to that challenge."
“I hear from them pretty much every week,” Dallan Hayden said after his Nashville-based J3M 7-on-7 team’s workout Sunday at E.S. Rose Park. “They’re all just telling me I’m definitely a guy they want to stay in-state.”
The Vols have told him they want him to be part of their class and that they would be happy to get an early commitment from him.
“Oh, yeah, for sure. That’s all Coach Ansley always talks about — when I’m going to make the decision and all that stuff,” said Hayden, who’s ranked by 247Sports as the No. 34 athlete in the 2022 class and the No. 7 rising junior from the state of Tennessee.
“I’m like, probably later in my junior year is when I’ll probably make a decision. I’m going to narrow my schools down pretty soon.”
“They’ve got a whole lot of kids (committed) — Kamar Wilcoxson, that guy from Alabama,” Hayden said, referring to four-star Tennessee defensive end/linebacker commitment Dylan Brooks of Roanoke, Ala. “They’re doing amazing things, and they’re getting in-state talent to stay in-state.”
Christian Brothers athlete Dallan Hayden will unveil his top seven in the coming days. It will be heavy on SEC flavor and in our estimation that’s where he is likely to play. Tennessee is in a very good spot with Hayden but he will take some visits before making a decision. We aren’t suggesting that he’s going to wait and take official visits before making a decision but we do know he wants to see some schools besides the few that he has seen.