Tennessee football recruit Richard Jibunor won’t name leader; Vols in top 3

Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest Tennessee recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers. Check out previous editions here. In this edition, we discuss Tennessee’s recruitment of Richard Jibunor and where the Vols stack up.

The latest with Richard Jibunor

Auburn always has been perceived as the favorite in the recruitment of outside linebacker Richard Jibunor (Athens Christian/Athens, Ga.). This might have changed recently, though.

Jibunor, a 4-star prospect according to the 247Sports composite, traveled to Gainesville, Fla., to see Florida play Tennessee on Sept. 16. The Gators won the game 26-20 on a 63-yard touchdown pass as the clock expired. The wild atmosphere made an impression on Jibunor.

The 6-foot-3, 206-pound outside linebacker wouldn’t name a leader when he spoke with SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi after the game.

“Florida is definitely one of the schools I’m really considering,” said Jibunor. “Florida is definitely in my top 3 schools. I don’t really know [the order]. I’m trying to check out everything. But definitely, Florida is where my heart is. Florida is definitely top 3.”

The Vols join Florida and Auburn in Jibunor’s top 3. Jibunor said he plans on taking official visits to Auburn and Knoxville, Tenn., before it’s all said and done. He said he would make a return trip to Florida, too.

“It was a good game to really see how well they can play,” Jibunor said. “I was really impressed with the way they were playing. The environment was awesome. I’ve really heard a lot about Florida, but … I got to see how pretty the place is.

“The atmosphere was crazy. The coach told me that most of their fans weren’t here because of the hurricane. But despite that fact, it was very, very awesome. I definitely will be back soon.”

When to expect a decision

I wouldn’t expect a decision from Jibunor before he takes his official visits to Auburn and Tennessee.

That did not keep the Florida coaching staff from pushing for a commitment, though, while he was on campus.

“The coaches been trying to get me down for a long time now,” Jibunor said. “They were just excited, trying to get me to commit and everything. But it’s part of the game, and I can’t wait to do that. I like it.”

The Tennessee coaching staff likely will start leaning on Jibunor, too, if they believe they can get a commitment. Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen went to Jibunor’s high school game last Friday in Athens. Thigpen is known as one best coaches on Tennessee’s staff at connecting with recruits.

The Tennessee coaching staff obviously believes it still has a fighting chance to land Jibunor, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent Thigpen to his game.

Breaking down the decision and fit

If I had to make a pick right now as to where Jibunor will play college football, it would be Auburn. He has taken the most visits there and still has the official visit there remaining.

If Tennessee is to swing a commitment from Jibunor, that undoubtedly would cement the V’ spot as a top 10 class in the country. The Vols have 23 commitments in the Class of 2018 at the moment and it is the best class in the SEC.

Jibunor rates as a 4-star prospect and ranks as the No. 14 athlete in the class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. His athleticism makes it easy to project him as a pass-rushing linebacker who can make plays at the SEC level ― even as a freshman.

Tennessee has one linebacker commitment right now from Matthew Flint (Madison County/Gurley, Ala.), but he will be more of a project for the Vols. He can run a 4.5 40-time and could be a dangerous weapon in pass protection down the line.

Jibunor would bring some instant pop to the linebackers corps, though. He would also be the final defensive take for Tennessee in the class.

Miss a previous edition? Find all your SEC Country Tennessee Vols recruiting news here.

Tennessee football podcast: Butch Jones clears air on Vols’ QB situation — for now

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