The Tennessee Volunteers just keep firing on all cylinders on the recruiting trail, and the season is still a month away. Today, head coach Butch Jones was pleased to announce his 20th (yes, 20th) verbal commitment of his 2014 recruiting class when 4-star safety Cortez McDowell announced he was Rocky Top-bound.
Make no mistake, McDowell is very highly regarded. ESPN lists him as a top-300 player nationally, and Rivals.com considers him one of the top 250 players on their list. Even still, I think he might actually be underrated. Everyone considers him one of the top 10-20 safeties in the country, though I think he could be top-five.
Big safeties are all the rage right now (thank you, Seattle Seahawks), and McDowell fits the bill as a big playmaker in the defensive backfield.
McDowell is a very well-built safety at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. The standout from Locust Grove, Georgia, uses that size to his advantage when laying the wood in run support or on blitzes. Run support isn’t all that he can do, however. He’s incredibly intuitive reading the quarterback, and is seemingly never caught out of position in coverage, something his coaches rave about.
In short, he’s a big play just waiting to happen.
His propensity for big plays sometimes catches him going for that highlight hit instead of a proper wrap-up, but there’s no denying his raw physical ability.
McDowell will be a good fit in Knoxville as well. Vols secondary coach Willie Martinez has always looked for bigger and more physical safeties when he was previously at Georgia and Auburn, and is clearly salivating to get McDowell in the mix next fall. Bryon Moore will be gone next year and Brian Randolph is still recovering from injuries to his knee, so there will be ample opportunities for McDowell to step in and play right away.
McDowell is picking the Vols over a sea of other offers. Just two days ago, he listed a final three of Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia, but also said he was planning on committing in August. But, hey, when was the last time a recruit did something opposite of what they previously said? Oh, that’s right, it happens nearly every day.
There’s still a long way to go until he actually puts his signature on the binding National Letter of Intent. Georgia and Auburn aren’t going away just because he gave a verbal to another school in the conference (this isn’t the Big Ten, people — this is a blood sport).
But for now, UT fans should be happy for yet another 4-star commitment in what is (for now) the no. 1 recruiting class in America.