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ELCA defensive back commits to Tennessee

Eagle’s Landing Christian defensive back Bryson Durden has committed to Tennessee as a preferred walk-on, but the rising senior could earn a scholarship offer before the end of the upcoming season. (Photo by Derrick Mahone).

Eagle’s Landing Christian defensive back Bryson Durden has committed to Tennessee as a preferred walk-on, but the rising senior could earn a scholarship offer before the end of the upcoming season. (Photo by Derrick Mahone).

McDONOUGH —Bryson Durden could have waited to see what offers were going to come his way this fall, but the Eagle’s Landing Christian rising senior saw what he wanted and decided to commit.

After several conversations with the Tennessee coaching staff, Durden decided to accept a preferred walk-on to the Volunteers’ program.

“I just fell in love with the place when I went for a visit,” Durden said. “I really didn’t think I could do any better than Tennessee. It was the right place for me. I really felt wanted by the coaching staff.”

In fact, Durden said he could get an offer for a scholarship by season’s end from Tennessee. For now, he is happy with his preferred walk-on status, which could turn into more once he gets to Knoxville next season.

“From what I’ve been told, I was No. 3 on their board for defensive backs,” Durden said. “I’ve been in contact with the coaches. They say I still have a shot a scholarship this season, but I will definitely get an opportunity to play, mostly on special teams.”

Since his commitment, Durden said several schools have started to show some interest, mostly on the Football Championship Subdivision level, the second-highest level in the NCAA. He said he would listen at the offers, but is pretty solid with his commitment to Tennessee.

ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said Durden has the skills to compete on Football Bowl Subdivision level, and is not surprised that Tennessee has shown interest in the defensive back.

“He’s been a great player for us,” Gess said. “We feel as if he is one of the top defensive backs in the state. His size has gotten him a lot of interest, and he has great speed.”

Durden has been the second leg on back-to-back Class A 400-meters relay championship teams at ELCA. Gess says he is a low 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. With the graduation of D.J. Curl, Durden will likely return kicks and punts this season for the defending Class A private school champion.

“I’m looking forward to that part of the game,” Durden said.

Durden’s love for Tennessee escalated during his visited to SEC school’s spring practice game. And for good reason.

The Volunteers, which consistently has one of the highest attendance counts in college football, had an announced Orange-White game crowd of 61,076 fans and 500 former players in attendance. It was the second-largest spring game crowd in Tennessee history.

Tennessee has 24 commitments so far under first-year coach Butch Jones, which ranks in the top 10 among the various online recruiting services. The Vols have three commitments from Georgia, including Locust Grove’s Cortez McDowell, who is considered the top safety prospect in the state.

If Durden and McDowell follow through with their commitment, it would be the second straight season that a player from the Southern Crescent signs with the Vols program. Last National Signing Day, former Jonesboro standout Cameron Sutton signed with Tennessee.

With his commitment made, Durden said he is out to prove to the doubters that he can play on that level.

“It has motivated me to try and earn a scholarship on the team,” Durden said. “I can’t slack off now that I have some interest from some schools. I want to prove that I belong on that level.”

During his first season on the varsity level at ELCA, Durden played the cornerback position. Last season, he played a hybrid linebacker position for the Chargers. Because of an injury, Durden didn’t take to the field until the fourth game of the season.

This season, he will play the safety spot.

“He is a very versatile player,” Gess said. “We plan on moving him around.”