July 24, 2011

Lone Star LB has Vols in Top 2

Much like the offensive and defensive lines have been needs for Tennessee the last couple of years, linebacker is most definitely a need in the class of 2012. Van, Texas, linebacker Dalton Santos would help fill a huge need and the process in winding down for the talented Lone Star State product.

"I've enjoyed it and it's been a great ride," Santos said. "It's a privilege and a blessing. It gets hectic and it was really hectic when I had 40 offers and had no idea what I was going to do. You get so many letters and facebook messages. You have to start narrowing it down. It's been a good thing though. I've enjoyed it."

Santos is down to Tennessee and Texas A&M. Both schools offer a lot and Santos loves his comfort level with each. He was in Knoxville earlier this month and was pleasantly surprised in what he found.

"I wasn't expecting much at first," Santos said. "I told coach (Peter) Sirmon I would come down and check it out. I really like Coach Sirmon and it felt good. I like the staff because they are young and energetic. Tennessee is going to start winning a lot of ballgames here soon. I felt comfortable and that was big."

Sirmon has done a nice job in his first year as the Tennessee linebackers coach. Both Sirmon and Aggie linebackers coach Dat Nguyen offer NFL experience and that's a big thing for Santos. He also loves Sirmon's down-to-earth nature.

"He is real with everyone," Santos said. "He tells you what he thinks and I like that in a coach. He doesn't just tell you what you want to hear. He is laid-back and he has experience from his time in the NFL."

So which school has the advantage? Santos is unsure right now.

"Both schools have everything I want," Santos said. "It just comes down to my level of comfort. I have to be comfortable and you don't want to wake up and not be happy for the next four years. If I were to get hurt and missed a year then I've got to be comfortable and be happy with where I am and the people I'm around. That's the biggest deal to me. My family is going to back me up 110 percent. They don't care where I go and I'm grateful for that."

Santos lives 12 hours from Knoxville and just three from College Station. The hours could be a factor, but Santos is trying to not let them be and he hopes to give each school a fair chance.

"If it was about the distance then Tennessee wouldn't be in it," Santos said. "When we were leaving Tennessee then I was like I really like it, but I can't do it. My dad talked about it and he told me that he wanted me to go where I felt comfortable. There is nothing that is holding my family down here. They will pick up and go. I'm lucky in that regard."

One big advantage for the Vols is their lack of depth at linebacker. The Vols already have two linebackers committed in the class of 2012 and Tennessee fans hope that Santos is the third.

"That helps Tennessee," Santos said. "It's big. I've never sat out in anything and I'm not going to start now. I wouldn't dedicate myself to the game if I didn't want to play. It's about opportunity and relationships. Coach Sirmon is exactly right. There is not too many people like coach Sirmon and coach Nguyen. I think if I can get in there and get the terminology mentally, then I'm going to be good to go from day one."

At 6-foo-2 and 245 pounds, Santos is a whole different breed of linebacker for the Vols. They didn't have anyone that size playing the position last season and freshman A.J. Johnson could be the only one playing 'backer this fall that size. He loves the game and really enjoys contact.

"Coaches tell me that they like my aggressive nature," Santos said. "I've always been that way. I've had good instincts. I've been catching the football ever since I could walk. To me it's not about what's going on around me. It's my love and passion for the game. I live to knock the piss out of someone and de-cleat them. I love to look up in the stands and see 100,000 going crazy. It's what I live for. It's what I've always done. I'm never going to give up. I'm relentless. It's do-or-die time every play."

Rivals.com rates Santos as a 3-star linebacker in the class of 2012. He's also ranked the 10th-best at his position nationally.

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