Josh Malone wrapped up an extensive recruitment process Wednesday afternoon, committing to Tennessee during an announcement ceremony at Station Camp High School (Gallatin, Tenn.). The 4-star wide receiver prospect revealed his decision in front of a national audience on NBC Sports Network.
The 6'3", 190-pound playmaker picked the Volunteers over fellow finalists Georgia, Florida State and Clemson. His other offers included Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Miami and UCLA.
"I felt like I had a better opportunity there," Malone told NBC Sports during a televised interview immediately after the announcement. "I put no emotion into it. I just had to go to the right place for my comfort level. I feel like I'm going to succeed."
Prior to his announcement, Malone was considered one of the premier uncommitted prospects in the country. He is listed as the nation's No. 5 receiver and No. 45 overall recruit in 247Sports composite rankings.
Malone enjoyed a dominant senior season. He caught 71 passes for 1,404 yards and 19 touchdowns, according to 247Sports.
Malone will contend for early playing time in Knoxville, where a proud tradition at receiver is already in place. Current NFL players Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota), Robert Meachem (New Orleans), Denarius Moore (Oakland) and Justin Hunter (Tennessee) recently enjoyed success at Tennessee.
The Volunteers' current roster includes established pass-catchers expected to return next year. Freshman Marquez North (38 receptions, 496 yards) and sophomore Alton Howard (44 receptions, 388 yards) were the team's leading receivers this season and provide experience at the position moving forward.
North was Tennessee's top recruit last year, and this current class also features 4-star JUCO receiver Lavon Pearson. Malone's presence instantly bolsters the Volunteers' skill level along the offensive perimeter.
He isn't a blazer, but quickness and shiftiness in the open field make him an ideal weapon in the passing game. Malone is a precise route-runner who appears comfortable in traffic and racks up yards after the catch, often escaping initial collisions.
His imposing frame allows him to shrug off defensive backs near the line of scrimmage, while his long strides create separation downfield. Malone attacks the ball at its highest point and displays elite leaping ability, wreaking havoc on opponents in red-zone situations.
The Volunteers' passing attack ranked 109th nationally this season, per ESPN.com. The addition of Malone provides Tennessee with promise for improvement in the near future.
“I feel like I can come in and start right away," Malone told 247Sports writer Ryan Callahan. "I’ll go through some growing pains like every freshman, but I feel like I can come in, start right away and make an impact."
The program picks up another prized in-state prospect. Coach Butch Jones holds commitments from four of the state's top five recruits, according to 247Sports.
The Volunteers previously landed 4-star standouts Jalen Hurd (athlete; Hendersonville), Todd Kelly (safety, Knoxville) and Derek Barnett (defensive end, Brentwood). Tennessee now holds 33 commitments in its 2014 recruiting class.
The group is rated second nationally behind only Alabama, according to 247Sports composite rankings.