Tennessee’s frustrating season took a turn towards the recruiting trail on Wednesday.
The Vols seem to have all but lost Josh Nunes, the quarterback from Upland (Calif.) High School who committed to UT in June.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder is considered one of the top 20 pro-style quarterbacks in the nation. Before committing to UT, Nunes was considering Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arizona State among others.
In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the News Sentinel, Nunes said in a statement he had changed his commitment to a “soft verbal”.
“My reason is based on the distance and difficulty getting there from my home,” Nunes wrote.
Nunes said trying to return home for a family emergency during one of his visits emphasized the distance between Knoxville and Upland, which is 40 miles east of Los Angeles.
Nunes also expressed concern that his extended family would have trouble making the trip with any regularity.
Nunes, who was at the Rose Bowl for the season opener at UCLA on Sept. 1, visited UT last weekend for the Florida game. The Vols (1-2) lost 30-6 and were booed on a handful of occasions.
“It’s unfortunate,” Nunes’ father, Tim Nunes, said. “Unfortunately, it happens at every stadium. They’ll get it going.”
A source close to UT’s program said the Nunes family had expressed concern about booing even before the Florida game. The Vols were also booed at times in a 35-3 win against UAB the previous week.
Offensively, UT has struggled with untimely mistakes in the first three games.
Tim Nunes maintained that his son’s decision wasn’t based on UT’s struggles, saying the Vols will soon have a “superstar” offense. Tim Nunes also said that coming into a rebuilding situation has advantages for a high school quarterback.
“The distance has reared its ugly head,” Tim Nunes said in a telephone interview. “It was different than he has anticipated.
“He loves it (UT). It’s just the actual location of Knoxville is tough for us.”
Tim Nunes said his son was too busy with school and football practice to talk the media.
When Josh Nunes suddenly committed to UT before even visiting Knoxville in June, he cited a strong relationship with UT offensive coordinator Dave Clawson as the primary reason he picked the Vols.
“I’ve done a lot of research on the schools I’ve been looking at,” Nunes said shortly after his commitment. “You can’t go wrong at Tennessee. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I just felt like I should jump on it.”
Tim Nunes said his family had flight delays on both trips to Knoxville — in late July and last weekend.
“We thought it was just an easy jump to the airport,” Tim Nunes said. “It’s a bummer but he said, ‘I can’t put everybody through this.’ ”
Although Josh Nunes said he is still considering UT, the parties seem farther apart than Knoxville and Upland.
“I am not closing the doors at UT from my side and I still think highly about the program, esp