Cristian Conyer commits to Vols, picks Tennessee over Kentucky

Christian Conyer Mainly has been focusing on Tennessee and Kentucky for months, and the two SEC East rivals have continued to battle for him over the past several weeks. Despite an all-out push from the home-state Wildcats, he ultimately decided that he felt at home with the Vols.

The Class of 2023 cornerback from South Warren High School in Bowling Green, Ky., announced Sunday afternoon that he has committed to Tennessee, celebrating his mother’s birthday by picking the Vols over Kentucky. Both programs hosted him twice within the past six weeks before he settled on Tennessee, the school that he admitted has been standing out to him since “earlier this year.”

The 6-foot-1.5, 170-pound Conyer gave the Vols their 14th commitment for the 2023 class and their fourth in nine days. He also became the first projected cornerback in Tennessee’s class, addressing one of the Vols’ most glaring needs on defense.

Before publicly revealing his decision, Conyer told GoVols247 that Tennessee defensive backs coach Willie Martinez‘s track record of developing players in the secondary, particularly at cornerback, is one of the main reasons he was sold on the Vols after leaning toward them for the vast majority of the past few months.

“At my position, corner, Coach Martinez is very experienced, and he’s put a lot of people to the next level,” said Conyer, who’s ranked the No. 553 overall prospect and No. 56 cornerback in the 2023 class and the No. 4 rising senior from Kentucky, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite.

“And he’s just developed a lot of good athletes, and I feel like he can develop me at the same rate that he’s developed them.”

Conyer, who has been one of Tennessee’s top cornerback targets, traveled to Knoxville last weekend on his most recent official visit. Kentucky hosted him the weekend of June 17 on his first official visit. The Wildcats made the two-team race more competitive down the stretch, but he said the Vols “really stuck out to me” for months after his trip to Knoxville on March 5 for one of their junior days.

“Coach Martinez, I actually did my research, and he actually broke down my film and compared what I do to what he can fix and stuff like that, and he really felt like he was my coach already,” Conyer said, reflecting on his visit to Tennessee nearly four months ago.

“He was correcting some things I had on my game, and I fixed those things and it made my game better.”

Kentucky offered him an opportunity to stay in the Bluegrass State, but he said the Wildcats didn’t have a significant advantage over Tennessee in that regard. He has played on the Middle Tennessee-based Tennessee Select 7-on-7 team over the past few years, and he pointed out that Tennessee’s campus is also relatively close to home.

“Knoxville is just three hours (away),” Conyer said. “I’m in Nashville, like, every weekend, anyway, so Tennessee already kind of feels like home, a home state.”

The Vols extended a scholarship offered to him in March 2021, just two months after Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel‘s hiring, and Conyer has been a priority for the Vols over the past several months.

“They like my size, and they’d like to see me play corner because that length and speed and ball skills, (Martinez) said it’s a must-have for the future of their team,” Conyer said. “And this recruiting class — the Class of ’22 and ’23 — is probably one of the strongest recruiting classes. Tennessee’s really been doing their thing with recruiting and, in the future, we’re going to be looking nice.”

He said he expects to have an opportunity to compete for early playing time in Tennessee’s secondary. But the Vols haven’t made any promises about his possible role.

“Coach Martinez, he kept it real with me,” Conyer said. “He said it’s not going to be given to me. I like competing, anyway, so when I get in there, I’m going to have to compete for a spot. And if I win the spot, then it’s mine. I’ve just got to go take it.”

Conyer has built strong relationships with several of Tennessee’s commitments in recent months, and he already knows some of the Vols’ current players, including former 7-on-7 teammates Elijah HerringCameron Miller and André Turrentine. One of Conyer’s Tennessee Select teammates, four-star edge rusher Caleb Herring of Murfreesboro, Tenn., also is one of the Vols’ highest-ranked commitments.

“They text me almost every week, telling me to come to Rocky Top,” Conyer said, referring to his former 7-on-7 teammates who are now at Tennessee. “Andre just transferred there. I played on his 7-on-7 team when I was in eighth grade.”

But Conyer added that his connections to some of Tennessee players was “not really” a major factor in his decision, “because I know people at both” Kentucky and Tennessee.

“I was just really looking at who I think I can play with and get a national title with,” he said. “Which team, when I go up there and hang out with them outside of the visit, who do I have a better vibe with? Who can I see myself hanging out with and playing with? And, in that aspect, I really just get a better vibe from Tennessee.”

With his decision behind him, he said he’s now looking forward to “focusing on getting a state championship for my high school before I leave.” He said he plans to graduate from South Warren in December and arrive at Tennessee in January as an early enrollee.

“I think it will help, since I won’t be, like, stunned when I first get to college,” Conyer said of being an early enrollee. “When everyone else gets there, I’ll feel like I’ve got an advantage. I’ll already have been there a few minutes. I’ll know how everything goes, and I can really just get after it. … And, by the time the season comes, I’ll be ready to go.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.