KNOXVILLE — Bradley Central High School offensive lineman Austin Sanders has been on the University of Tennessee campus dozens of times.
There's been a different vibe for the past two visits.
A longtime verbal commitment to the Volunteers, Sanders sensed renewed enthusiasm around new coach Butch Jones and his staff during his official visit to Tennessee this weekend.
"There's a different excitement there with the coaches because they're all new, and you can tell that they're ready to get things rolling," Sanders said Sunday. "It's really just a different atmosphere with them. They're talking about how excited they are to us and saying, 'Tennessee's going to win, and we're going to get things done.'
"That's the only difference there. The coaches before were a little bit different. These guys are just excited to be there."
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound tackle was one of eight Tennessee commitments among the 13 official visitors this weekend. With the recruits watching, Jones and his staff were introduced individually to loud ovations during a timeout of Tennessee's basketball win against Mississippi State.
Running backs coach Jay Graham, the lone holdover from Derek Dooley's staff and former Tennessee star, received the loudest cheers before Jones walked on the court and chest-bumped Smokey, the Vols' costumed mascot.
Jones and offensive line coach Don Mahoney visited in Sanders' home earlier in the week.
"We're getting close," Sanders said. "He talks to me like we've known each other forever, and I like that. This weekend was just about getting closer to the coaches, meeting the whole staff and getting the feel for everything with the other players and the other commits that are in my class."
The headline visitors were five-star Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton High defensive end Carl Lawson, four-star receiver Shelton Gibson from Ohio's Cleveland Heights High School and four-star Chamblee (Ga.) High School defensive end Davin Bellamy.
Lawson, the nation's No. 2 overall prospect according to Rivals.com, made an official visit to Clemson last weekend. He committed to Auburn last March but recently began looking around following the Tigers' coaching change. Bellamy, meanwhile, is committed to Florida State and Gibson committed to West Virginia just before this weekend's visit to Tennessee.
"It was a great visit," Lawson told 247sports. "I liked the facilities and the history there. Everything was top-notch. [Jones] really just talked to me about the opportunity at Tennessee. He's a great guy. He's real down to earth. I really like the coaching staff."
Tailback Peyton Barber, Lawson's teammate at Milton and an Ole Miss commitment, also visited, and Gaffney (S.C.) High School defensive end Jaylen Miller was the lone undecided recruit on campus.
The other seven Vols commitments visiting were receiver Josh Smith and offensive lineman Brett Kendrick from Christian Academy of Knoxville, Chardon (Ohio) tight end A.J. Branisel, Cincinnati offensive lineman Dylan Wiseman, Jonesboro (Ga.) athlete Cameron Sutton, Kingsport athlete Malik Foreman and Marietta (Ga.) receiver Ryan Jenkins, a former Milton teammate of Lawson and Barber.
Sanders said he recruited the uncommitted visitors to the Vols, but the Class AAA Mr. Football lineman winner in Tennessee insisted he wouldn't beg any prospects to join him.
"If you want to come play for UT, then you'd come, but if you don't want to come and play at UT, then there's no point in begging you," he said. "That's not what Tennessee's about. If you want to play for Tennessee and you want to be a part of that tradition, then you'd be a part of it.
"If you want to go to another college, go to another college."
As for other Tennessee targets, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) dual-threat quarterback John Franklin III, who made an official visit to Knoxville last weekend, wrote on Twitter that his official visit to Florida State this weekend "reassured" his commitment to the Seminoles.
Four-star Charlotte (N.C.) receiver MarQuez North, who made an unofficial visit to Tennessee last Saturday, took his official visit to North Carolina this weekend. Five-star Richmond (Va.) tailback Derrick Green is set to announce among Michigan, Tennessee and Auburn on Jan. 26.
Tennessee's class stands at 18 commitments after Inglewood (Calif.) tight end/defensive end Chauntez Jackson flipped his verbal pledge to Houston.
Amid all the changes to the coaching staff and the recruiting class around him, Sanders has remained the rock of the Vols' 2013 class. He committed to Tennessee before his junior season more than 17 months ago, and now his anticipation grows with every visit to his future football home.
"Just being there and listening to the sound of the coaches' voices and walking out in the stadium and being part of that just gives me chill bumps," he said. "You get excited, and if you're not getting chill bumps when you're there, there's got to be something wrong with you."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...