Getting Bates' signature on a National Letter of Intent will be just as difficult, if not more so, than the other three. The 6-foot-3 target has over 20 scholarship offers, including SEC schools like Florida, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Tennessee didn't show up late to the party informing the Sunshine State linebacker that following in his dad Bill Bates' footsteps is a viable option. Bill was a Vol defensive back 1979-82 and a two-time second-team All-Southeastern Conference performer before a lengthy career with the Dallas Cowboys that included being All-Pro in 1984.
"It was real exciting," Bates told InsideTennessee about his Orange & White offer. "My grandmother, she was real excited too. Everybody was just fired up that I had the opportunity to play in the SEC, play for a top Division I program."
Former assistant coaches Darin Hinshaw, Sam Pittman and Sal Suneri were all recruiting the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., native. Hinshaw put some orange on the Ponte Vedra High sideline when the Sharks took on Pedro Menendez in early November.
Current Volunteers like Nathan Peterman (Bartram Trail) and Alton Howard (Edgewater), as well as 2013 commitment Corey Vereen, are all from the same general part of the Sunshine State as Bates. He started getting to know some of those players on an unofficial visit to see Tennessee play Missouri on Nov. 10.
"In the locker room, we noticed some mutual things with each other. That's definitely a (perk)," Bates said.
A key interception and crucial third-down reception by Florida commit Ahmad Fulwood helped propel Bishop Kenny past Ponte Vedra in the opening round of the FHSAA Class 5A state playoffs back on Nov. 16.
The Sharks' season closed with a record of 9-2. Bates finished his junior campaign with 104 tackles and three sacks.
"I'm playing SAM or WILL (linebacker) right now in 3-4. So, anywhere. I'm versatile. I can play outside and rush the quarterback or play inside," Bates said.
In the last month, Bates says he has been working out with his teammates in the mornings and doing speed training at night, primarily concentrating on the 40-yard dash, 5-10-5 shuttle, broad jump and vertical jump. It's that work that has his weight up 10 pounds up to 225.
A return trip to Knoxville is in the works for Spring 2013.