Dillon Bates: The Start of a Dream Linebacker Class at Tennessee?

By Patrick Schmidt
Tennessee Volunteers
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee is one of the more successful teams on the recruiting trail and currently have the No. 4 ranked class according to 247Sports for 2014, but one position where the Volunteers want an infusion of talent is at linebacker. Despite the commitment from four-star inside linebacker Gavin Bryant (Jackson, Al, Jackson) in mid-June, Butch Jones and his staff are zeroing in on some high-profile linebackers.

The most notable linebacker recruit pursued by Tennessee this year, or any other year for that matter, is Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fl. Ponde Vedra Beach) who is set to commit on the 3rd of July. The four-star outside linebacker is the son of former Volunteer Bill Bates and a virtual guarantee to commit to Tennessee when he announces his decision.

The 6-2, 220-pound linebacker has been a fan favorite even before donning orange and white, and Tennessee was long considered an overwhelming favorite to secure his commitment. With the next two linebackers, however, the Vols find themselves in an underdog position.

Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill. Plainfield South) will use one of his five official visits to come to Knoxville to see what Jones is building at Tennessee after being impressed with the current class. The No. 1 ranked outside linebacker in the class visited LSU this spring, and they look like the team to beat after he was at the Tigers spring game. Florida, Ole Miss and USC are his other top suitors.

Tennessee may be a severe underdog concerning Garrett at this time, but to be considered in the top five without a visit tells me he is highly intrigued with the program. They will have to blow him away, which is entirely possible, to overtake LSU, however. Garrett is scheduled to announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American game in January.

The most intriguing linebacker to monitor between the time of publishing and the time he announces his decision is No. 4 ranked inside linebacker Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill. Crete-Monee) who visited Tennessee this week.

The Vols offered Morgan at the end of March almost eight months to the day after his perceived favorite and in-state rival Vanderbilt extended an offer. In fact, Tennessee offered the 6-2, 228-pound bone-crushing linebacker less than a week after his first visit to Vanderbilt.

Morgan has been to the Commodores campus on at least two occasions according to his timeline of events on 247Sports, and a healthy battle in the Volunteer state could be in the works for Morgan between the SEC schools. Morgan is also being pursued by Ole Miss, Florida, Notre Dame and Michigan State among others.

Tennessee would love to land all three of these high-impact players to fortify the linebacker unit for the next three to four years, but that may be a little out of reach. However, landing even two of them would have to be considered a coup for Jones and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.

It may look improbable today, but much can change in a few months. The Vols top-five class is further proof that anything that was once perceived improbable can turn into a reality with a little hard work.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and add him to your Google network.

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