Knoxville truly serves as a happy medium between a large city and a small town. It is an easy transition for students coming from either extreme. In a way, Knoxville can be as large as you want it to be, depending on how willing you are to travel and explore.
The people of Knoxville are rather relaxed (except on game day), and there are plenty of places to go to enjoy leisurely activities. You will not feel trapped in Knoxville. Atlanta and Nashville are not too far away, and you can be in the mountains in even less time. While many consider Knoxville a "college town," not all of the exciting activities take place on campus. You may find that Knoxville is the ideal size for a college student.