ORLANDO, Fla. — Don’t envy David Reaves.
Sure he’s a young, rising college football coach at one of the nation’s most prominent schools. But he’s also smack dab in the middle of a recruiting controversy after leaving South Carolina for Tennessee last month to join the staff of new UT coach Lane Kiffin, who is his brother-in-law.
South Carolina fans were infuriated by his decision to leave his hometown and coach Steve Spurrier, who gave Reaves’ career a jumpstart.
Reaves has been accused of freely calling Gamecocks’ commitments and trying to undermine Spurrier with claims that the Ol’ Ball Coach was just old and wouldn’t be coaching much longer.
Reaves denied those charges publicly on sports talk radio in Columbia.
Guilty or not, Reaves has a job to do at UT. Kiffin didn’t hire him to be passive, whether or not they’re related. Nor did he hire him to pacify South Carolina fans.
So Reaves did call some South Carolina prospects, especially those who had previously shown interest in UT, such as offensive lineman Quinton Washington. Reaves also tried to convince tailback Jarvis Giles that the new UT sell was better than the old South Carolina sell.
For Reaves, there are landmines afoot.
One such bomb went off when Reaves reportedly told prospects they’d have a better chance of winning a championship at UT than South Carolina even though the Vols have lost to South Carolina two of the past four seasons.
That certainly ruffled some Gamecock feathers.
“At South Carolina, they look good but we can offer you a little more here,” Giles said, recalling Reaves’ UT pitch. “That (a better chance to win championships at UT) was part of it, but I don’t want to say that. I don’t want to burn a bridge for him. He’s got ties to South Carolina.”
There’s also been bickering back and forth between Spurrier and Kiffin last month on the subject of recruiting. UT also hired South Carolina strength and conditioning coach Mark Smith.
Gamecock fans are no longer worried about Giles; the 6-foot, 180-pounder from Gaither High School in Tampa, Fla. He chose South Carolina over UT last month.
Reaves could catch more heat for re-recruiting a prospect like Washington, an in-state player who many thought was on the fast track to South Carolina.
Shortly after taking the job at UT, Reaves was in Washington’s living room extolling the virtues of playing for the Vols. Reaves had an impact. The 6-3, 315-pound Washington will take an official visit to Knoxville on Jan. 24.
One of the most impressive athletes at the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Washington will take an official visit to South Carolina on Jan. 17. He’s already taken an official visit to Michigan. Clemson also might get an official.
No announcement is pending.
“I really couldn’t tell you,” the standout from St. Stephen High School in Timberland, S.C., said. “I might make it the day after my final visit. I might make it on Signing Day. I might make it a few days after. I really don’t know.”
Washington said distance from home won’t be a factor in his decision. As for playing in cold weather, he said, “I’ll get used to it.”
As for Giles, UT can’t help but hold out hope that he might change his mind again. Giles was once committed to UT before Phillip Fulmer stepped down in November.
Time is running out. Giles will enroll next week at South Carolina as a mid-termer.
“No chance,” Giles said of changing his mind. “When I was committed to Tennessee, it was all Tennessee. Now it’s South Carolina, so it’s all South Carolina.”
Shortly thereafter, Giles was asked about the stout competition in practice this week in Orlando.
“When you touch that ball, you’ve got to go,” Giles said, “you can’t second-guess yourself.”
Neither can David Reaves.