January 20, 2013

Gibson expects return trip to Rocky Top

As it stands right now, Shelton Gibson believes he is going to need to see West Virginia for a third time and the University of Tennessee for a second time.

The four-star wide receiver out of Cleveland, Ohio, took an official visit this weekend to see Butch Jones' Vols and check out Rocky Top. What Gibson, who committed last weekend to West Virginia, saw was enough to make him want to return to Knoxville in two weeks with his mother along.

"I mean, Tennessee was always in the mix," said Gibson when asked where his weekend in Knoxville left the Vols. "I've got a lot to talk about with my mom."

Gibson said he committed to the Mountaineers because he had a good connection with coach Dana Holgerson, the West Virginia players and appreciated the safety of the environment. That latter factor is something that Gibson indicated would play a key role in his final decision.

"I'm just going down there. I'm going to go down there and come back up here," Gibson said of planning to visit the Mountaineers next weekend and coming back to UT on the final weekend before signing day on Feb. 6. "It's going to come down to Tennessee and West Virginia.

"(Knoxville) is much bigger, a lot more people here, but the thing is, is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

Safety, Gibson said, is a prominent factor "because, like, I want to be somewhere where I can just play football and go to school, so that I don't have to worry about anything."

The U.S. Army All-American said he had strong relationships with both Jones, hired Dec. 7 to take over the struggling UT program, and new linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. Gibson praised both Vols coaches for their straightforward approaches.

"I got a lot of one-on-one time with (Jones). Got to talk to him about how Tennessee really is," said Gibson, who had consulted both Jeremy Graves and Travis Kelce, players under Jones, about the Vols' new coach. "Coming down here I didn't know anything about their traditions like the 'Vol Walk,' and it was amazing. At dinner it was like we were introduced like a game day. It was amazing.

"I know coach Thigpen and I know coach Jones a lot. I was about to commit to Auburn (where Thigpen previously coached) when they gave me the offer and I was about to commit the next morning. I was about to commit to coach Thigpen the next morning. Because he's just like one of those coaches that you can go to and be like if you've got a personal problem, you can talk to and he'll understand what you're talking about. He keeps everything 100 and that's one of those things that's a big thing with me. You've just got to keep everything 100."

Gibson, who first burst onto the recruiting scene with a 21-touchdown sophomore season, said he was scheduled to host Holgerson this week at his home and also expected to set up something soon with the Vols' coaches.

"They told me to call them and see when they set up a schedule this week," Gibson said. "I know coach Dana is coming on Tuesday. But (Tennessee's coaches) told me to call them as soon as I get to the house."

Indicating it now is a two-team race but saying that he left Knoxville still committed to West Virginia, Gibson said he would likely wait until national signing day to make his final choice official.

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