BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Justin Coleman wasn't sure about where he wanted to play college football until Wednesday morning.
The senior-to-be at Brunswick (Ga.) High School knew he was going to be a Tennessee Volunteer or a Kentucky Wildcat; but though he was leaning toward Tennessee in recent days, he didn't make his commitment to the Vols official until his phone call to the school before noon on Wednesday.
"Basically, it was even with Kentucky," he said. "But what made (Tennessee) stand out were the environment and the tradition they have up there. I thought they had what I wanted and needed."
Oh, and there was one more thing that sold him on Tennessee.
"I like the 'Rocky Top' song," Coleman added.
A 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback, Coleman made his commitment to the Vols public Wednesday at an afternoon news conference at his high school.
His commitment is non-binding, but Coleman, a three-star recruit according to both Rivals and Scout, said he plans to graduate early from Brunswick in January and enroll at Tennessee in time for the second semester and go through spring practice with the Vols.
He can't officially sign a letter-of-intent with Tennessee until February, but Coleman wanted to decide on his college before beginning his senior season with the Pirates, who compete in Georgia's second-largest classification and have won back-to-back region championships in their first two seasons under head coach Victor Floyd.
"It's a big deal," Coleman said of committing early. "It's going to take a lot of stress off of me for my senior season, and I feel like I can focus on helping my team a lot more."
Floyd said he encourages players to commit before their final prep season if they can.
"I tell kids to take summer visits and take a look at everything because in the fall there's not enough time to do that plus concentrate on your academics, football and everything in recruiting," Floyd said. "It can be distracting, and it's better to get the process over with."
Coleman, who runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and finished second in the state in the 300-meter hurdles and fifth in the 110 hurdles this past spring, had as many as 16 official scholarship offers from schools. He narrowed his choices down to Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Florida and Louisville before deciding between the Vols and Wildcats.
Tennessee didn't start recruiting Coleman until Derek Dooley took over the program in January after Lane Kiffin left Knoxville to become head coach at the University of Southern California.
"I know Coach Dooley has had a successful past, and I feel like he's going to come in there and turn them around and push everyone to be the people they are supposed to be," Coleman said.
Floyd said Coleman was intrigued by the fact that he might get the opportunity to play right away at Tennessee.
"I just think he has all the tools," Floyd said. "He's athletic. He can run and jump, but probably the biggest thing that separates him is his work ethic and he's really focused. He's extremely competitive, too, which you have to be to run hurdles and play cornerback.
"I think he will do well. I really do."
Kevin Price is a freelance contributor.