Tennessee Football Recruiting: 9 Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

Tennessee Football Recruiting: 9 Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

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    It's high school all-star game season, and coach Butch Jones' third-ranked Tennessee football recruiting class will be well-represented. Future Volunteers will be all over the field in the two major postseason games, as well as in two more that you'll be able to watch.

    Six Vols commits were invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and two more will participate in the Under Armour All-America Game.

    The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl will feature three UT commitments, and the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl will have at least seven future Vols playing.

    This is a public relations dream for Jones, a salesman who is trying to get his message out to difference-makers who can help turn around the program. Having their names and the "Power T" flash across living room screens all over the country is a big recruiting tool.

    It also doesn't hurt that so many Tennessee commits will be in the ears of their peers, telling them all about the Vols.

    Let's take a look at the UT commitments and targets you should watch in the upcoming games.

    All rankings and statistics courtesy of the 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Dillon Bates, 4-Star OLB

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    Under Armour All-America Game, Jan. 2 4 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Playing for a poor Ponte Vedra High School team in Florida, Dillon Bates finished with 81 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks and two interceptions as a senior, according to MaxPreps.com. Known for his coverage skills, Bates was coveted by many of the nation's top programs, ultimately choosing to follow in his father's footsteps at Tennessee. Bates picked the Vols over Alabama and Florida, among others, and he did it on national television at the prestigious "The Opening" summer prospect camp in Oregon.

    With the graduation of starting outside linebackers Dontavis Sapp and Brent Brewer, the son of former UT star and NFL All-Pro Bill Bates will have every opportunity to step in and play immediately. Blessed with excellent coverage skills and good size, Bates impressed on the camp and all-star circuit, and he has the ability to be a major contributor in 2014.

Aaron Medley, 3-Star K

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    Under Armour All-America Game, Jan. 2 4 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Aaron Medley is rated as a five-star kicker and punter by the Kohl's Professional Kicking Camp. That same service has him as the nation's top kicker and 12th-ranked punter. He holds various all-state and all-region honors throughout his prep career at Marshall County High in Tennessee. He made three of six field goals and averaged 39 yards per punt this season.

    Medley had offers from Ohio State and Texas A&M, among others. The lifetime UT fan chose Tennessee upon his offer from Butch Jones. With Ray Guy semifinalist Michael Palardy out of eligibility, playing time is certainly up for grabs, and Medley will compete to kick field goals next season.

Josh Malone, 4-Star WR

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    U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Jan. 4 1 p.m. ET, NBC


    One of the biggest coups of this recruiting cycle for the Vols, Josh Malone committed to Tennessee over Georgia and Clemson, among others, and will enroll mid-term. For a while, UT was out of the picture for his signature, but Butch Jones rallied and ultimately received his commitment. Malone has the ideal combination of size (6'2.5", 191 pounds) and speed (second in the state with a 21.86 in the 200-meter) and, he won the 2013 Tennessee Mr. Football Class AAA Back award. He had 227 rushing yards and three touchdowns, as well as 71 catches for 1,404 yards and 19 receiving touchdowns.

    Malone is expected to come in and contribute immediately. He has the ability to start opposite rising sophomore Marquez North, and he will battle incoming junior college prospect Lavon Pearson for that spot on the outside. Malone is silky smooth, and he is showing up as arguably the top receiver at the U.S. Army game practice, according to Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt.

Jalen Hurd, 4-Star RB/ATH

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    U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Jan. 4 1 p.m. ET, NBC


    After setting state rushing records as a junior in 2012, gaining 3,357 yards and scoring 43 touchdowns in leading Beech High (Tennessee) to a state championship, Jalen Hurd injured his shoulder in the season opener and missed the 2013 season. He was still rated a 5-star player by 247Sports. Hurd was the Class AAA Mr. Football Back as a junior and was invited to "The Opening" all-star summer camp held on the Nike Campus in Oregon.

    Hurd is expected to arrive as a mid-term enrollee and be healthy enough to participate in spring practice. With Rajion Neal leaving for the NFL, there is plenty of playing time available alongside rising senior Marlin Lane. Hurd will play in 2014 if he's healthy, and the Vols will look for ways to get him the ball right out of the gate.

    Hurd is still recovering from the injury and won't play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Todd Kelly Jr., 4-Star S

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    U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Jan. 4 1 p.m. ET, NBC


    Todd Kelly Jr. is another legacy commit for Butch Jones in this class, and he is coming off an outstanding senior season at The Webb School in Knoxville that garnered him the Division II-A Mr. Football Back Award. Kelly had 72 tackles, seven pass deflections, three interceptions and three touchdowns, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel. He was that publication's defensive player of the year and led Webb to a state championship.

    The son of former UT standout and first-round draft pick Todd Kelly will be able to come in and compete for a starting spot opposite Brian Randolph. Free safety LaDarrell McNeil struggled as a sophomore this year, leaving the door open for either Kelly or Cortez McDowell to win the job in 2014.

Kevin Mouhon, 4-Star ILB

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    U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Jan. 4 1 p.m. ET, NBC


    Kevin Mouhon was a tackling machine for Georgia state champion Norcross, playing on the same defense as highly coveted recruit Lorenzo Carter. He finished the year with 112 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries, according to MaxPreps.com. He also was selected for the Georgia Rising Seniors All-Star Game a year ago.

    If A.J. Johnson returns for his senior season, as expected, Mouhon will have his freshman season to work on his speed and agility. He is actually a similar player to Johnson: a two-down linebacker who isn't quick enough to be on the field in nickel situations. He could have a very nice career at UT, but he probably won't contribute a lot in 2014 unless it's on special teams.

Adoree' Jackson, 5-Star CB

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    Under Armour All-America Game, Jan. 2 4 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Adoree' Jackson is one of the two massive fish left on the line that the Vols have a good chance to sign. Though it's expected UT is a bit on the outside looking in for his services (Florida, USC, LSU and Florida State are among the favorites), Jackson told 247Sports' Shea Dixon this week that UT has "a legit shot." Jackson is nationally rated as the No. 2 cornerback in the country, and he is believed to be a can't-miss talent. He wants to run track in college as well, and some teams are pitching the idea of him playing on both sides. He had 35 tackles and six interceptions in 2013.

    With the Vols desperately needing impact cornerbacks and defensive speed, Jackson would have a better-than-average chance to start opposite Cameron Sutton as a true freshman. Of course, a player of Jackson's caliber can start quickly virtually anywhere, but UT is going to be in this one until the end.

Travis Rudolph, 4-Star WR

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    Under Armour All-America Game, Jan. 2 4 p.m. ET, ESPN


    It would be a shocking development if Travis Rudolph—who is expected to make his college selection during the game—chose the Vols. Everybody has this as an Alabama-Florida State battle, and Auburn also has a chance for the receiver who finished 2013 with 63 catches for 1,237 yards and 15 touchdowns for Cardinal Newman school in West Palm Beach, Fla. He also had 202 rushing yards.

    The Vols would love to add another impact receiver in this class, and Rudolph is the only known possibility at this time. Still, with UT boasting a receivers class of Josh Malone, Lavon Pearson, Vic Wharton and Neiko Creamer, Rudolph would be a luxury at this point. He seems to have three national powers ahead of the Vols anyway.

Bo Scarbrough, 5-Star ATH

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    Under Armour All-America Game, Jan. 2 4 p.m. ET, ESPN


    The freakish athlete is from Tuscaloosa originally and has been committed to Alabama since September 2012, though he is considered a soft commit, at best. Bo Scarbrough transferred to Florida's IMG Academy to play his senior season. With Tennessee desperately wanting to sign another running back in this class, the Vols are recruiting him along with all-purpose back Derrell Scott, but Scarbrough is a really, really long shot at this point.

    Alabama is still a major player here, as is Ole Miss. UT appears on the outside looking in for Scarbrough's final official visit. He told Gator Country's Andrew Spivey this week that Florida, Florida State or Oklahoma could get his final visit. That would suggest the Vols are out of this one. Still, if UT somehow landed his pledge, he's the type of athlete who could come in and immediately get carries.

Other UT Commitments in All-Star Games

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    Other postseason all-star games to watch that will feature Tennessee commits are as follows:

    Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, Jan. 3 5 p.m. ET ESPN3


    Charles Mosley, 4-Star DT/OL: This jumbo lineman could play on either side of the ball and ultimately chose the Vols over Alabama and a host of other SEC opponents. If he sticks on defense, he'll have a chance to play immediately.

    Derek Barnett, 4-Star SDE: This in-state defensive lineman could play either inside or outside. He picked the Vols over Vanderbilt and others. Barnett can and probably will be depended on to provide immediate depth.

    Daniel Helm, 4-Star TE: Rivals.com has Helm as the top-ranked TE in the country. He is blessed with excellent hands and should probably start immediately in passing situations.

    Cortez McDowell, 4-Star S: He has the frame to play either strong safety or outside linebacker, but UT wants him on the back level. Chose the Vols over several SEC teams, including Georgia and Auburn. He and Todd Kelly Jr. will battle LaDarrell McNeil to start opposite Brian Randolph.

    Emmanuel Moseley, 3-Star CB: Evaluation gem out of North Carolina, UT was his first major offer. He led his team to a state championship as a quarterback, but he's a corner on the next level. Very raw but super fast, Moseley needs some time in the weight room, but his speed is a key to playing quickly for UT.

    Cory Thomas, 3-Star SDE: Vols have told him he can start at DE, but already at 270, Thomas may swell into a tackle. He has a huge frame, and UT loves his potential. Can he contribute right away? If he moves inside, he'll likely need some time to add bulk.

    Vic Wharton, 3-Star ATH: Wharton was dynamic for Independence High this year, and UT wants him as a slot receiver. He was the first commitment in this class, pledging on Christmas Day 2012. Wharton probably won't play a lot on offense next year, but he could contribute immediately in the return game.



    Andrew Williams, 4-Star WDE: The Vols have been recruiting Williams for a long time, but getting his commitment is a very long shot. If UT stuns everybody and gets him, Williams is just the kind of pass-rushing presence who could play right away.


    Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, Jan. 5 9 p.m. ET FoxSports1


    Orlando Brown Jr., 3-Star OT: Son of the long-time NFL offensive lineman of the same name. Brown has lost more than 60 pounds and is still a work in progress, but he has a big upside. He almost certainly won't play immediately, but he's a project with NFL potential.

    RaShaan Gaulden, 3-Star S: This tackling machine chose UT over Vandy and South Carolina, among others. He can play either safety or corner, but he has a legit shot to start at nickelback for the Vols next year.

    Dewayne Hendrix, 4-Star SDE: Recruited by some of the top programs in the nation, Hendrix comes from a family of UT fans and ultimately committed to Tennessee over Florida and Southern Cal, among others. He will almost certainly get reps on the strong side next season.



    Derrell Scott, 4-Star APB: Though South Carolina has long been thought to be the leader, the Vols are coming on strong. This dynamic athlete would give UT three running back commitments in this class and is a perfect fit for Butch Jones' offense who would compete for touches quickly.

    Benjamin Knox, 3-Star OT: The cousin of UT running back Marlin Lane recently received a Tennessee offer. The Vols are battling Louisville, among others, for his signature. His body also is a work in progress, but plenty of playing time is up in the air at OT for UT.