DL transfer commits to Tennessee, quickly sold on Vols during first visit

Even before Omar Norman-Lott traveled to Tennessee on Friday to visit the Vols for the first time, he had already started to think that he might want to continue his college career. He was sold on the idea not long after he arrived on campus.

The Arizona State defensive lineman announced Monday afternoon that he has committed to Tennessee, giving the Vols an experienced defensive tackle they have coveted since he first entered the NCAA transfer portal in late April. He said he chose Tennessee over Colorado, Michigan State and LSU, among others.

Before publicly revealing his decision, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Norman-Lott told GoVols247 that he “was almost” convinced that he wanted to transfer to Tennessee before he traveled to Knoxville on his first official visit.

“Just with their persistence in recruiting and staying on me, I had almost a preconceived notion, like, ‘Yeah, this might be where I need to be, just with how genuine they are, straight shooters,'” Norman-Lott said. “When I have a question, they’re giving it to me. It’s just the raw truth, and that’s what I respect, honestly, so coming here, I did have a preconceived notion of me being here.

“I just wanted to verify, what is the city like?” What are the people like within the city? What does it even look like? And it passed everything. It exceeded all of my expectations.”

His trip to Tennessee over the weekend turned out to be the only official visit he needed to make his decision. He said he knew where he wanted to go once he walked into Neyland Stadium on Friday for the first time.

“They picked me up from the airport,” said Norman-Lott, a North Highlands, Calif., native who had never traveled to the East Coast before Friday. “First place we go is to the stadium to have food. As soon as I walked into the stadium, I was sold – 102,000-seat stadium. It’s huge.

“Nothing could compare to this. This is different. SEC football is different, just period. As soon as I walked into that stadium the first day, I knew.”

The Vols also reached out to Norman-Lott, who has three years to play his two remaining seasons of eligibility, when he entered the transfer portal in late April only to withdraw his name less than a week later. When he again added his name to the transfer portal last month, he said they were the first team to contact him.

Tennessee defensive line coach Rodney Garner has made it clear to Norman-Lott that he is excited about what the former four-star prospect could add to the Vols’ defensive line.

“(Garner likes) just my ability to just get off the ball, use my hands and play low, keep my feet active,” Norman-Lott said. “I’m a faster guy for my size, so he really admires that and hopes I can bring that to the room, because it’s already a good room. They just went for four sacks and 10 pressures in their bowl game, so this is no knock to the room. But I’m just coming to make it better. …

“It’s already a great room that I’m stepping into. I’m just looking to make it even better. You know what I mean? Just get a fair opportunity and shot to play on the field and show what I have, and my gift and God-given ability.”

Norman-Lott said he didn’t know much about Garner’s track record of producing NFL defensive linemen throughout his 25 years as an SEC defensive line coach. But Norman-Lott said he likes what he’s heard from Garner, and he’s looking forward to playing for him once he returns to Tennessee to begin spring-semester classes later this month.

“Just with him talking about it, I’ve gotten to know that he’s a big guy. All around, worldwide, he’s just known, so I think that plays a big part in why I kind of just came here,” Norman-Lott said of Garner.

“I trust his coaching and his ability to coach. I’ve talked to the players he’s coached. He said he’s a great guy. All that just verified why I’m committed.”

(Photo: Joe Rondone, USA TODAY Sports)

Former Tennessee defensive lineman Matthew Butler of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders is among the players who have spoken with Norman-Lott, he said, about what it’s like to play for Garner.

Norman-Lott said the Vols see him as “a true three-technique” and have told him that they need “a more athletic three-technique that could just bring versatility to the D-line.”

“I have that quick twitch to be able to get off the ball, get vertical and just put that pressure on the quarterback,” said Norman-Lott, who recorded 14 tackles, including three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, along with a pair of pass breakups this season while appearing in nine games.

He’s eager to get started at Tennessee, where he will be joining a program coming off a breakthrough season under the second-year head coach. Josh Heupel. The Vols finished their first 11-win season since 2001 with a 31-14 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

“I’m really excited to just get in the building and just earn the respect of all my peers around me, because I know it’s not given,” Norman-Lott said. “And their standard is set so high. I feel the, I don’t want to say pressure, but the anxiety to just come in there and meet that standard with them and just keep the ball rolling and try to win the SEC championship.”

Despite only taking one official visit, Norman-Lott said he doesn’t need to see anything else before finalizing his decision. He expects to join the Vols as early as this weekend.

“I’ll be back around January 15th,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere else. I had a Colorado visit, but that’s done. I’m not even going to waste their time.”

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