Bates earning honors, not feeling pressure

Dillon Bates

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U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection before starting second semester as a high school junior, an offer list over two dozen deep and nationally-known coaches blowing up the phone.

What's left to prove on the prep level for Dillon Bates? If you ask him, plenty. Thus the "#statementday" on his Twitter account as he gears up for a Knoxville trip for a junior day at Tennessee.

Since Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High School's season ended on Nov. 16, the junior has clocked in to prepare for the path ahead. A strenuous workout regimen has him up to 6-feet-3, 220 pounds and left him in prime shape to compete at a high level for January's U.S. Army Combine in San Antonio, Texas, which was an event he dominated.

"I had a few chances for a bunch of picks. I could have had like three or something but two I dropped. So, I got mad," Bates told InsideTennessee.

"I think I did pretty good in the testing. Unofficially, I got a 4.57 in the 40 and then 35-inch vertical. I didn't see what the shuffle was."

For his efforts, the linebacker joined wide receiver Josh Malone, running back Sony Michel, safety Edward Paris, safety Brandon Simmons and cornerback Jalen Tabor with a spot back in the Lone Star State as an All-American Bowl participant in 2014.

"It's a pool of all the best athletes in the nation, and I wanted to come out and show what I can do, show my talents and showcase my ability. I feel like I've done that," Bates said.

He has already done some work with recruiting, narrowing his list of schools that interest him the most to Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

He has not completely eliminated all other schools that have offered, but he is concentrating more on that list.

"Everybody's pretty much still in the running but those are the schools that have been giving me a lot more attention than most others," Bates said. "So, I'm really kind of paying more attention to them."

In spite of changes from the head coach on down to the coaching staff in Knoxville, the Volunteers have maintained strong interest in the son of former Tennessee standout Bill Bates.

"They're up there also," Dillon said of the Orange & White. "I've been talking with coach (Butch) Jones and the new director of recruiting, J.R. Sandlin. He called me actually on his first night in Knoxville. So, I got a chance to talk to him for a little bit and get to know him and build a relationship with the new coaching staff. So, I'm pretty glad."

Jones didn't waste any time leaving an impression on Bates.

"He's doing a real good job," Bates said of the first-year Vol head man. "I think within the first week he was in there, he Facebook'd me and wanted to tell me that I'm still high up on their list. That was really special to me to know that his first week in there the first thing he's going to do is contact recruits. That tells me he's a player's coach and that's something that I'm looking for."

Any trip to Greater Knoxville is also a family reunion of sorts as Bates has relatives in nearby Farragut.

He's had a fellow Class of 2014 member in his ear about pledging to Tennessee in the company of Vic Wharton, whose mother played high school basketball with Bates' aunt.

"(Wharton)'s been texting me and been 'Come on man, come commit and come to Tennessee.' But, I'm just trying to keep my options open and see what I can do," Bates said.

Wharton, who used to live in Knoxville, has an uncle in Brandon Wharton, who played basketball on The Hill. The 2014 class has a number of sons of former Vols, including Bates, Elliot Berry, Evan Berry, Neiko Creamer, Todd Kelly Jr. and Bailey Lenoir.

"That's what I heard…there's a bunch of legacy guys," Bates said.

"When they offered, all those guys kind of texted me to get to building relationships. It's been pretty cool."

Nearly all have Tennessee offers and high interest in the Vols. Would Bates want to join them?

"That would be kind of cool but my dad's told me and everybody's told me that they're not going to pressure me into going to Tennessee or anything," he said. "I'm just trying to keep my options open. But, that definitely would be a pretty cool thing to do."

It's hard to imagine there being many former Volunteers that keep Tennessee as close to their heart as Bill Bates, but the former Dallas Cowboy Pro-Bowler hasn't forced his son to envision an orange future.

"Deep down I think he wants me to go to Tennessee," Dillon said. "He's always kind of like, 'Orange. You see that? The Vols are doing something.' In all seriousness, he's always telling me, 'I'm not trying to pressure you into anything. Go where you feel most comfortable and where you want to go, where you want to play.'"

The Sunshine State prospect wants to make a decision on a commitment "sometime during my senior year." He's also set his sites on earning an invitation to The Opening in Oregon.

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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