January 14, 2013
Relationship with Thig, UT visit get Walton's attention
Jonathan Walton has been committed to Penn State for more than a month, but the linebacker from Daphne, Ala., departed Tennessee this weekend suddenly able to see himself on the college level in a different but similarly prestigious uniform.
"I talked to coach (Tommy) Thigpen at Auburn and I got along well with him. We always had good connect. He said he got a new coaching staff he would like for me to meet," said Walton, who visited UT this weekend because of his strong relationship with new Vols linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. "I was always cool with him. Came up here and met the coaching staff. I like the coaching staff and the place. The people, the support you got, the place. Everything about it. You get good vibes. You know where you would want to be and where you wouldn't want to be, and I got a good vibe about the place.
"Oh, they [the Vols] definitely stand strong [for Walton's services at linebacker]. Love the place, enjoyed my time. Enjoyed the people. Loved the coaching staff. I see myself here playing at a place they need help. They're saying I can come in and play, so I'm definitely looking forward to that."
A powerful, 6-foot-1, 235-pound 'backer with multiple SEC and Big 10 offers, Walton began to reopen his commitment of late when former PSU defensive coordinator Ted Roof bolted for a spot on Georgia Tech's staff. Walton has heard very little from the Nittany Lions' staff since Roof's departure, and their lack of communication could be the gain of the Vols or another program. Walton also will visit South Carolina and Auburn in the next two weeks, but he made clear he found some comfort this weekend in Knoxville.
"I went over some defensive stuff with coach Thigpen and I could learn the system. He said I could play anywhere and I could learn the system real fast," Walton said. "He said I can run and I've got the size. Anywhere I fit in.
"We got a little connection now and it would just become stronger, (Thigpen) being my (position) coach. I got a little feel for how he feels towards me and why wouldn't I want to have him for my coach, he's coach Thig. I been with him for a minute now."
While Walton hasn't eliminated the Nittany Lions on the heels of Roof's departure, the Bayside Academy standout admitted Roof's exit was "kind of a big deal" because Roof was his primary contact and he now feels a disconnect with PSU.
Walton, hosted by A.J. Johnson, said he met a number of people this weekend and expects that his recruiting picture will clear once he wraps up his next two official visits. Like most prospects, Walton said he was intrigued by early playing time but that he would not be opposed to a redshirt season if needed at the right school.
"If I can come in and play early in the SEC, I would love that. Especially at Tennessee, the vibe for football and atmosphere for football. I wouldn't mind it at all. If I can take that chance, I definitely want to take it," Walton said. "I wouldn't mind being redshirted but if I can come in and play I would.
"Might be a little before (national signing day) if I do (announce a new school). It's not necessarily planned out. Once I take my officials, I'll have a better idea of where I want to go."
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