December 4, 2013

Five-star Malone makes his pick

GALLATIN --- A recruitment that's been unfolding across the country for years as more than 40 college football programs extended offers and reached a fever pitch this week has again, remarkably, gone in the favor of Tennessee and first-year coach Butch Jones.

Five-star wide receiver Josh Malone, the state of Tennessee's top-ranked player according to Rivals.com's newest rankings released this week, ended a recruiting process that had captivated fans in Clemson, S.C.; Athens, Ga.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Knoxville when he followed his instincts and chose the Vols. Malone formally announced his choice live on national television today, exclusive to Rivals.com and NBC Sports, after coaches from both Clemson and Tennessee made their final pitches in the Malones' home Monday evening.


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It's been a whirlwind week for the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Station Camp standout and U.S. Army All-American. Malone on Monday, with a total of seven college coaches - five from Tennessee, two from Clemson --- in the audience, captured the Tennessee Titans Class 6A Mr. Football Award. Malone had hoped the week would entail the Mr. Football banquet, his college choice and then an appearance in Saturday's Class 6A state championship opposite Maryville.

Two out of three isn't bad, however, for the talented pass catcher who's worked with private coaches and also honed his skills with the Nashville-based Playmakers Academy/In Full Motion. Malone visited more than 30 schools during the past two years and then also participated in national combine events near Dallas and this past summer at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Malone's commitment continues Jones' and Tennessee's remarkable run of statewide dominance in the 2014 class. After getting four-star Vic Wharton's commitment on Christmas Day 2012, the Vols have since added fellow in-state standouts Todd Kelly Jr., Rashaan Gaulden, Jack Jones (2015), Zach Stewart (2015), Derek Barnett, Aaron Medley and Malone's fellow in-state five-star, prized tailback Jalen Hurd.

Key down the stretch for the Vols was the coaching staff's ability to showcase considerable raw practice footage of quarterback Riley Ferguson, who sources indicated would have been the Tennessee starter following injury to incumbent Justin Worley had Ferguson not had a stress-fracture in his right leg. Malone had as much as nearly 90 minutes of practice footage he was able to see of Ferguson, as well as high school film on the former Elite 11 quarterback from near Charlotte, N.C.


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