Independence Day is tomorrow but the feeling around the Tennessee football program is synonymous with Christmas morning with today’s commitment from four-star linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Ponte Vedra) who follows in his father’s footsteps with the Volunteers.
Despite attention from Alabama and Florida, the No. 7 outside linebacker in 247Sports composite rankings, Dillon never appeared to waver on his desire to play for the same school as his father Bill Bates. The elder Bates was a four-year starter at free and strong safety earning second team All-SEC honors as a junior and senior before embarking on a 15-year NFL career.
Certainly, it was an advantage for head coach Butch Jones to play on the legacy aspect, but Dillon did not make this decision solely on that fact. Dillon tells Dallas Jackson, “My parents made it clear right from the start that there was no pressure whatsoever and it was my decision where I want to be and what makes me feel most comfortable.”
He feels most comfortable with Jones and his staff and has an aunt and uncle living in the area for family support. Coupled with his love for the fan base and facilities this was a match made in heaven. The way Jones is recruiting gives reason to believe Tennessee can get to the top of the mountain like Alabama is and Florida has been. The addition of Bates takes them one step closer to the top.
In fact, if not for Jones, Bates is unlikely to have followed in his father’s footsteps and continue the Bates legacy in Knoxville. Bill previously commented that if Derek Dooley was still coaching at Tennessee, he would not have his son even considering Tennessee.
Jones played the largest role in his commitment based on comments Bill made to Dave Hooker when he commented on Jones and why he thinks he is so special.
“I think he’s doing all the right things … it takes the players really. The one thing Butch has done is he’s recruiting. He’s getting good players … the one thing I have noticed is that his coaches have followed him and coached with him at other places. When you see that and you see a staff stay together, that means a lot about the head coach.”
The comparisons to his father have been prevalent during his recruitment, and when you follow in the footsteps of such a fan favorite, pressure is inherent. The weight on your shoulders to live up to the expectations of the fan base can be crippling, but I do not have that worry about Dillon who does not shy away from pressure.
The 6-foot-3, 211-pound linebacker is used to the comparisons and playing a different position will deflect some of the comparisons to playing style. Bill was characterized as an overachiever who played with unbridled physicality and aggression to win battles against physically gifted players.
The apple did not fall far from the tree as Dillon brings that to the football field. However, he is blessed with much more natural athletic ability. Dillon tells Jackson, “I try to take his game into my game and make it that much better.”
At The Opening, he showed off his speed running a 4.51, 40-yard dash, displayed his change-of-direction skills running a blistering 4.09 5-10-5 shuttle and showed off his explosive ability with a 39.8-inch vertical jump.
With today’s announcement out of the way, Bates will focus on recruiting for Tennessee, working with his Ponde Vedra Beach team and try to improve on last year’s 9-2 finish and prepping for the U.S. Army All-American game in January.
Ben Abramson of the USA Today shows Knoxville, Tenn. is the most patriotic city in America, so you can expect some early 4th of July fireworks in celebration of Bates’ commitment.
Bates is a player who can be the face of the program the next four seasons and keeping with the holiday spirit is the biggest present under the tree as Tennessee celebrates Christmas in July.