KNOXVILLE – Dillon Bates revealed one of the worst-kept secrets in recent UT football recruiting history on Wednesday night at The Opening – an invite-only camp for the nation’s top high school prospects held in Beaverton, Ore.
Bates, the son of former UT and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates, announced his commitment to Tennessee at the event, ending months of speculation that Dillon Bates would ultimately end up pledging to the Vols. He chose the Vols over his other finalists, Florida and Alabama, in addition to dozens of other offers.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound pound linebacker from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was already hailed as one of the top prospects at his position before attending The Opening this week. A strong performance in Oregon only solidified his lofty rankings.
Bates ran a 4.51 second 40-yards dash, a 4.09 in the 20-yard shuttle and had an impressive vertical leap of 39.8 inches.
“Comes from a strong bloodline and it shows in his instincts and overall football savvy,” ESPN.com wrote in a scouting report. “Has some limitations out in space and as a third-down coverage defender but Bates is a prospect with a high probability of success when you look at his measurables, fundamentals and intangibles. Should also add a lot of value on special teams.”
Bates is the 18th commitment in UT’s class of 2014, a group that is currently ranked as one of the best in the nation by nearly every recruiting service.
How he fits: Linebacker is one of the top priorities in the 2014 class and the Vols could take as many as four or five at that spot. That’s because UT can only return a maximum of four scholarship linebackers after 2013 – A.J. Johnson, Curt Maggitt, Christian Harris and Kenny Bynum and Johnson could leave early for the NFL.
Landing Bates is a huge part of rebuilding the position. He’s big enough to play middle linebacker, but moves well enough that he could play outside as well. There’s a real possibility that he could play frequently, if not start in 2014. UT now has four linebacker commitments in the class of 2014 – Bates, Gavin Bryant, Jerome Dews and JUCO prospect Chris Weatherd. If the Vols can add one or two more highly-ranked prospects, that will go a long way in retooling this unit.
ESPN.com: 4-star; 92nd best player in the country
Rivals.com: 4-star; 59th best player in the country
Scout.com: 4-star; 13th best OLB in the country
247Sports.com: 4-star; 204th best player in the country
247Sports.com Composite: 4-star; 113th best player in the country
Tennessee’s 2014 commitments (247Sports Composite ranking)
LB Dillon Bates (4-star)
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga