Tennessee commitment Damien Thigpen is pursuing other options after being told he would likely not fit into the Vols’ plans under new football coach Lane Kiffin.
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound athlete from Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Va., was told of the decision on Sunday during his official visit. Thigpen, who committed to UT in April, will now visit UCLA this weekend and Notre Dame on Feb. 13.
Thigpen’s mother, Tracy Thigpen, said Thursday her son is still committed to UT for now.
“The only thing that we’re saying right now is that he wants to explore his options and make sure we find the best place for him,” Tracy Thigpen said.
When Kiffin was hired, athletic director Mike Hamilton mandated that Kiffin must honor all scholarships for prospects who committed to former coach Phillip Fulmer.
Although UT representatives cannot discuss specific prospects as per NCAA rules, Hamilton said late Thursday that the policy is still in place, that every committed prospect still has a scholarship waiting at UT.
Kiffin used a similar tactic with two committed quarterback prospects in December: Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty. Both were told they likely wouldn’t fit into Kiffin’s offense and subsequently explored other options.
Boyd committed to Clemson this week. Petty has since taken official visits to Southern Methodist and Arkansas, although it is unknown if either school has offered Petty a scholarship. Petty chose UT over Portland State and New Mexico last summer.
Timing is the greatest hurdle for Thigpen to overcome. National Signing Day is Wednesday and schools have far less scholarships available than they did a month ago.
Thigpen was one of UT’s most committed prospects through Fulmer’s dismissal and Kiffin’s hiring. He never took an official visit to another school and never publicly questioned UT’s decision to make a coaching change.