Gabe Wright had a streak on the line.
That's why he changed his mind at the last minute this past weekend, opting to head to Columbia, S.C., to watch the Gamecocks' upset of No. 1 Alabama instead of making the shorter drive north from his home in Columbus, Ga., to see Tennessee take on Georgia.
Wright, a 6-foot-3, 273-pound four-star defensive tackle, has yet to see the home team lose on his unofficial or official visits throughout his recruitment. Obviously, he didn't see the Bulldogs' 41-14 rout of the undermanned Vols coming.
"I thought Tennessee was going to handle business," said Wright, never short on an opinion or two. "I didn't want to spoil my luck."
Wright, who plays for Dell McGee at Georgia powerhouse Carver High School, made an unofficial visit for the Sept. 25 game against UAB, where the Vols needed two overtimes to dispatch of the Blazers. Wright stood next to the goal post in Neyland Stadium's north end zone where Denarius Moore caught the game-winning touchdown.
"It was very intriguing," Wright said. "The atmosphere was crazy."
He was scheduled to be in Auburn for today's game against Arkansas.
His list of offers, which includes the vast majority of SEC schools, has been narrowed to two: Tennessee and Auburn. The Tigers are currently ahead of the Vols, Wright said, but that very well could change after his official visit next weekend for the Alabama game.
"I'm still wide open," he said.
Wright said he was unaffected both by what he saw on the field at South Carolina, a team out of the running for his signature, or on a TV broadcast from Sanford Stadium.
"It's not like I'm going to go 'Ah, Tennessee lost,' " Wright said. "Maybe it meant a little something just because I knew how bad Georgia was this year, but it's not a big deal.
"I know it's a rebuilding year and Coach (Derek) Dooley is going to get his own recruiting classes in. I know things like that take time."
Wright, ranked the seventh-best overall prospect from Georgia and the seventh-best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals.com, isn't just getting the UT pitch from linebackers coach Lance Thompson, his primary recruiter. Since his visit over the summer, Wright has kept in touch with UT commit Pat Martin, a four-star safety from Greenville, S.C.
Wright admitted that he didn't remember meeting Martin in Knoxville, but the power of Facebook has drawn the two closer.
"It's not like he's on my back," Wright said. "He texts me, hits me up on Facebook. He knows the process of getting overwhelmed with stuff like that. He's not on me like that."
Martin said he thinks Wright's mind is made up.
"I think he's going to be a Vol, personally," Martin said. "He talks about Tennessee a lot."
Big-Time Visitor: Wright said he's bringing one of his closest friends with him to Knoxville next weekend.
It just so happens to be his teammate, running back Isaiah Crowell (5-11, 190), one of the nation's top-ranked running backs.
"Isaiah said he's going to give it a shot," Wright said. "He trusts in me and believes in me. We like the same things and have a little bit of the same tastes."
Crowell, a five-star and the nation's second-best running back according to Scout.com, told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution last week that his final two schools in the running were Alabama and Georgia. Wright, though, said Crowell is also interested in Clemson, and is open to see what UT has to offer.
Traveling Man: Martin said he's still "100 percent" for Tennessee, but plans to take at least two more official visits elsewhere.
Martin said he would fly to UCLA near the end of the season and will also get a closer look at Arkansas.
"Teams are still recruiting me," Martin said.
Martin will make his official visit to UT for the Alabama game.
Andrew Gribble can be reached at 865-342-6327.