"I am thrilled with what my staff, led by recruiting coordinator Bill Mosiello, was able to do in putting together this class," UT Head Coach Dave Serrano said. "They were able to identify a group of young men who are outstanding students, players and people, who want to be a part of our family at Tennessee and who want to help us win again. This class has the potential to put a stamp on this program and get it moving back in the direction we want it to go."
The class contains players from six different states with 10 from the high school ranks and three currently attending junior colleges. In addition to the six in-state players, the talented group also includes two from Georgia, two from South Carolina and one each from North Carolina, Kansas and Washington.
The most apparent quality found throughout this year's signing class is a history of success. In addition to countless wins, playoff appearances, district and conference championships, the class also holds a combined five Tennessee state titles.
"It is hard to teach winning," Serrano said. "One of the things that excites me most about this year's class is all of the success that each of them have had so early in their careers. That attribute fits perfectly into what our program is looking to accomplish in the years ahead."
Another notable trait among the majority of this year's signees is versatility. Almost all of them have the ability to play multiple positions and three of them will be given the opportunity to be two-way players for the Vols, playing both in the field and on the mound. The class includes six pitching prospects (three RHP, three LHP), seven infielders, three catchers and a pair of outfielders.
"Since we got to Knoxville, it has been a priority of our staff to find and recruit the best student-athletes in the state of Tennessee and throughout the South," Serrano said. "We feel that this class provides us with tremendous talent, versatility and depth, and expect all of them to contribute to our success early in their careers."
With a limited number of scholarships to fill rosters that exceed 25 players, walk-ons are always a pivotal part of any college program. Tennessee is no different.
Also set to join this signing class are five others.
Andy Cox is a 6-foot-2, 160-pound left-handed pitcher at St. Benedict High School in Arlington. David Aiken is a 5-8, 175-pound infielder at Oconee County High School in Watkinsville, Ga. Derek Lance is a 5-10, 178-pound infielder from Bearden High School in Knoxville. Heath Loyd is 6-1, 160-pound infielder from Science Hill High School in Johnson City. Scott Price is a 6-2, 205-pound infielder from Batesburg-Leesville, S.C., who currently plays at USC Sumter.
Nick Dawson (INF / Bartlett, Tenn.)
Ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the state of Tennessee by Perfect Game, Nick Dawson led a young squad at Bartlett High School to the regional finals as a junior, hitting .368 with 53 runs scored and 37 RBIs, while also recording four saves. For his efforts, he was named the co-District 14-AAA Player of the Year and earned a spot on the Memphis Commercial Appeal's "Best of the Preps" All-Metro list. Over the summer, Dawson claimed all-tournament honors at the prestigious Junior Sunbelt event in Oklahoma, helping Team Tennessee to a perfect 10-0 record and the tournament title. Joining him on Team Tennessee were fellow Volunteer signees Andrew Lee and Colton Harris. Dawson has also been named a Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention All-American in each of the past two years.
Serrano on Dawson: "Nick Dawson is a versatile infielder that is a true baseball player who plays the game hard. An in-state player from Bartlett High School in west Tennessee, he has been a steady player throughout his high school career."
Dawson on Tennessee: "I chose Tennessee because of how well I got along with the entire coaching staff and because I want to be part of helping them get Tennessee back to where it should be at the top of the SEC. I also really liked the campus and facilities and thought it was the best place for me."
ADAM GIACALONE (RHP/1B // Shawnee, Kansas)
One of the top junior college players in the country, Adam Giacalone is entering his second season at Neosho Community College. In his first year, the Shawnee, Kansas, native was spectacular at the plate and on the mound, claiming NJCAA First-Team All-American honors as well as all-region and all-conference accolades while leading the Panthers to a 29-7 record. A right-handed pitcher and first baseman, Giacalone went 10-1 with a 2.10 ERA and four complete games in 12 starts, spanning 83.3 innings on the mound, while pulling double-duty at the plate where he hit at a .396 clip with 18 home runs and 102 RBIs in 60 games.
Serrano on Giacalone: "We feel that Adam is possibly the top junior college player in the country. He was recruited by TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Nebraska among many others and has a chance to be an impact player for us immediately, both with his bat and on the mound."
Giacalone on Tennessee: "I chose UT because I felt really comfortable on my visit and the teammates were awesome. The whole coaching staff sold it for me just with the history they have, especially together. It really felt like a family relationship and I thought it would be the best place to further my baseball career."
COLTON HARRIS (LHP //Dyersburg, Tenn.)
A flat-out winner, Colton Harris has compiled an impressive 32-5 record through his first three seasons at Dyer County High School, including a complete-game victory over Knoxville Catholic as a freshman in the 2009 state championship contest. As a member of the Choctaw program, he has earned all-district and all-region honors in each of the past two seasons and was tabbed the District 13 AAA MVP in 2010 after not allowing even a single earned run in district play. One of three Vol signees to play on Team Tennessee at the prestigious Junior Sunbelt event in Oklahoma this summer, Harris was named to the all-tournament team after picking up a pair of victories on the mound to help lead the squad to a perfect 10-0 record and the tournament title. He also had two more wins at the same event in 2010, playing with current Tennessee players Jared Allen, Parker Wormsley and David Horne.
Serrano on Harris: "Colton is a crafty lefthander with remarkable track record of success. He is comfortable throwing four different pitches from all arm angles and has been nothing but a winner throughout high school career."
Harris on Tennessee: "When I took my visit in September, I toured the facility, met the coaches and was just really excited to be around an SEC school. The coaching staff was extremely welcoming and very easy to talk to. The facilities are awesome and Coach Serrano has been a winner everywhere he has ever been. He brings a winning mentality back to the Tennessee program."
David Houser (C // Columbia, S.C.)
One of the top prep catchers in the nation from AC Flora High School in Columbia, S.C., David Houser is ranked as the sixth-best player in the Palmetto State and received a 9.5 grade from Perfect Game. At the 2010 Junior National Showcase at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Fla., he set the Perfect Game all-time record with a recorded pop time of 1.75. In other PG rankings, the switch-hitting backstop comes in at 321 nationally, 35th among all catchers and was named to a third-team underclass All-American in 2010 before moving up to the first-team All-American list in 2011. In his junior year, Houser led AC Flora to a district championship and was named to the SCBCA AAA All-State Team after hitting .295 with eight home runs, 32 RBIs and a .512 on-base percentage. Before deciding on Tennessee, Houser also considered a number of other prestigious programs including College of Charleston, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina, Florida and Florida State.
Serrano on Houser: "David is a strong and sturdy catcher with all the makings of a big physical player one day. He has tremendous arm strength from behind the plate and can completely shut down the running game. At the plate he is a switch hitter with loads of power potential."
Houser on Tennessee: "I visited just about every college in the southeast and nothing really felt right. Right when I got to Tennessee, I had dinner with Coach Mosiello and was very impressed with him. Of all the catching coaches, I thought he would develop me the best. All of the coaches have proven themselves and have won a lot. It just felt right and I knew I could see myself going there. I just loved the college, period."
Vincent Jackson (OF/LHP // McDonough, Ga.)
Another potential two-way star for the Vols, 6-4 lefty Vincent Jackson is ranked as the 78th-best prospect in the 2012 class by Baseball America and 101st by Perfect Game. He also earned a 10.0 rating from PG, was named to the organization's 2011 Underclass First-Team All-American Team and is rated as the No. 7 prospect in the state of Georgia. As a junior Jackson guided Luella High School to the quarterfinals of the GHSA AAAAA state tournament, hitting .424 with 25 RBIs at the plate and going 6-4 with an average of 10.38 strikeouts per game on the mound. Jackson, who was named to the 2011 New Balance All-Area Code Games Team after hitting .429 at the event in Long Beach, Calif., also considered South Carolina and Mississippi State before deciding on Tennessee.
Serrano on Jackson: "Vincent is a tall, athletic player from Georgia who comes from a very athletic family and has potential to be a big time two-way guy for us in the very near future."
Jackson on Tennessee: "I chose Tennessee because I've always wanted to play competitive college baseball and the SEC is the best in the country. It felt like home when took my visit and I want to help the team get back to the College World Series."
ANDREW LEE (RHP/1B // Morristown, Tenn.)
Andrew Lee is another in-state signee that will play both ways as a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher and big first baseman. A three-sport star at Morristown West High School, he is also the school's starting quarterback and punter and plays forward on the basketball team. During his junior campaign on the diamond, Lee was 6-2 with four saves and a 2.38 ERA while also striking out 75 and walking just 15 in 56.0 total innings pitched. In addition to his work on the mound, he also posted a .421 batting average with six home runs and 42 RBIs in leading the squad to the Region 2 AAA semifinals. Along with fellow Vol signees Colton Harris and Nick Dawson, Lee played summer-league baseball for Team Tennessee, helping the squad go 10-0 and win the prestigious Junior Sunbelt Classic in Oklahoma. A 2011 PerfectGame.com Underclass All American Honorable Mention and All-PrepXtra Second Team selection, Lee was also recruited by Kentucky, Louisville and Vanderbilt. Additional honors for Lee include being named to the TBCA All Region Team and 2011 Tennessee Baseball Report All-Two Way Team.
Serrano on Lee: "Andrew is another possible two-way star with pitching and power potential at the plate. We also like that he is an all-state performer in three different sports and has been a proven leader at quarterback for his high school football team."
Lee on Tennessee: "When I met with Coach Serrano and Coach Mosiello on my visit, I was really impressed with the facilities and how they coach. Plus, the SEC is the best baseball conference in the country and will allow me to play against the best competition."
Drake Owenby (LHP // Powell, Tenn.)
A projectable hard-throwing lefty, Drake Owenby was named to the All-PrepXtra First Team and was Knoxville's District 3-AAA Pitcher of the Year this past season after leading Powell High School to a 17-5-1 record and the No. 1 seed in the district tournament. During his junior campaign, he went 7-3 with a 1.71 ERA and a 91:18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 innings of work. Not only does Owenby contribute on the baseball diamond, but he also plays tight end, linebacker and defensive end for the Powell football team that went 11-1 in 2010 and is currently 12-0 this season. Thus far this year, he has caught eight passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns and has recorded 27 tackles. A 2011 PerfectGame.com Underclass All-American Honorable Mention, he also considered Ole Miss, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Coastal Carolina before deciding to become a Vol.
Serrano on Owenby: "Drake is a quality left-handed pitcher with rich history of success. We feel that he has the potential of having a plus curveball and already has a great feel as a pitcher."
Owenby on Tennessee: "As soon as I walked on campus at Tennessee, I immediately noticed how great the chemistry was with the coaching staff. I really appreciated the way they treated me and you could tell that they were all great friends. Coach Serrano is one of the best coaches in the country and really knows what he is talking about with pitching, but he is also just an all-around great guy."
Michael Parrish (C // Cordova, Tenn.)
An athletic in-state backstop, Michael Parrish helped guide Evangelical Christian School to its first state championship since 1998 during his junior season at the Cordova, Tenn., high school. He came through in a number of clutch situations for the Eagles all throughout the tournament, going 5-for-12 with two home runs, a triple and seven RBIs in their three games played in La Vergne and Murfreesboro. One of those longballs made him the hero of the title game, as he hit a two-run shot in the eighth inning to lift ECS to a 6-4 victory over Knoxville Webb School and the state championship. He also plays on the Evangelical Christian football team, recording over 75 tackles as a linebacker this season. The son of a Tennessee alum, Parrish also considered Ole Miss, UAB and Tulane before making his decision to become a Vol.
Serrano on Parrish: "Michael is a tall, rangy, athletic catcher with a very strong and accurate arm. He possessed good hands behind the plate, along with strong offensive potential."
Parrish on Tennessee: "First of all, I have quite a bit of my family that has gone to Tennessee, including both my dad and aunt, so I have a lot of heritage there. I have always been a UT fan growing up and would like to be part of rebuilding this program. When I met Coach Serrano and he talked about wanting to develop a fun atmosphere, I knew I would enjoy playing for him."
A.J. Simcox (INF // Knoxville, Tenn.)
The son of former Tennessee assistant coach Larry Simcox and a bat boy for the Vols in each of their last two trips to Omaha (2001, 2005), Simcox, is one of the premier prospects in all of Tennessee, ranked as the state's No. 2 recruit and No. 163 nationally by Perfect Game. A top-level defensive player at short, he will also bring a lot of offensive potential to Rocky Top after hitting .470 with a state-high 70 hits en route to earning TSWA Class AAA All-State and District 4-AAA MVP accolades during his junior campaign. Also named to a 2011 Perfect Game Underclass High Honorable Mention All-American, Simcox has been a key component of the Farragut powerhouse in his first three prep seasons, helping to lead the Admirals to a trio of state championships. He also considered South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt before deciding on Tennessee.
Serrano on Simcox: "A.J. is a tall, lanky shortstop with great hands and a cannon for an arm. Ranked as one of the top high school players in the state, he helped lead Farragut High School to three straight state titles and will bring leadership abilities and a winning background with him to our program."
Simcox on Tennessee: "I have known Coach Serrano my whole life and have a lot of faith and trust in him. Being a hometown boy, I want to get the program back to where it belongs. I have always been a Tennessee fan and with the new coaching staff I knew that's where I wanted to go. As a young kid, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to Omaha with the team, but I was still too young to really understand how much that meant. Now I realize how much hard work and dedication goes into that and I look forward to helping this program get back to that level."
TAYLOR SMART (INF // Maple Valley, Wash.)
Entering his sophomore season as a second baseman at Western Nevada College, Taylor Smart is an experienced infielder who plays the game the right way. The Maple Valley, Wash., native helped lead Western Nevada to a 45-15 overall record and the Scenic West Conference championship last season, recording a .427 on-base percentage with 37 walks and nine stolen bases while hitting primarily out of the two-hole for the Wildcats. The Tahoma High School product was named both all-region and first-team all-conference for his efforts.
Serrano on Smart: "Taylor will bring a wealth of experience to what will be a young but talented infield next year. He has tremendous defensive skills and continues to show offensive consistency as a hitter at Western Nevada Junior College."
Smart on Tennessee: "Being a junior college player, I wanted to go to school that would give me a good chance to play professionally. The SEC is a great conference and it is going to be amazing to play baseball in it, especially with so much exposure to pro scouts and the opportunity to play in the College World Series. With the new coaching staff, Tennessee was the best fit for me and I look forward to winning as many games as I can as a Vol."
Tyler Smith (RHP // Sumter, S.C.)
Right-handed pitcher Tyler Smith served as the ace of a USC Sumter squad that went 41-11 and claimed the Region X regular-season conference championship last season. In his first year with the Fire Ants, he finished with an unblemished 6-0 record in 12 starts, striking out 75 and allowing just 47 hits in a team-high 58.0 innings of work. His 6-0 record tied for the best in school history and he ranks third in games started, fourth in single-season strikeouts and seventh in innings pitched. Overall, he averaged 11.64 strikeouts per nine innings and opponents hit just .211 off of him.
Serrano on Smith: "Tyler has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact in our program as a member of our weekend rotation next season. He has a very talented arm with great pitch ability skills."
Smith on Tennessee: "I just felt comfortable at Tennessee, loved the coaching staff and thought it was the best opportunity for me. They have proven that they can win a lot of games and can take teams to College World Series, and that's where I want to be. I think Coach Serrano is one of the best coaches in the country and I just want to play for him."
Christin Stewart (OF/C/1B // Lawrenceville, Ga.)
The Georgia State single-season home run record holder, Christin Stewart will provide the Vols with a versatile option as he can play either of the corner positions in the outfield, first base or even behind the plate, with a recorded pop time as low as 1.94. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native hit 26 longballs for Providence Christian Academy last season, breaking the state record previously held by current Arizona Diamondback and Gainesville, Ga., product Micah Owings. In addition to his stellar power numbers, Stewart also hit .500, stole 13 bases and scored 65 runs while leading Providence Christian to the state championship series. He is currently ranked as the nation's 313th-best prospect and received a 9.0 rating from Perfect Game. The organization tabbed him to its Underclass Third-Team All-American Team as well.
Serrano on Stewart: "Christin is a big-time left-handed bat with huge power potential. He has put up record home run numbers in state of Georgia and is a versatile athlete that can fill many spots on the field."
Stewart on Tennessee: "Tennessee was just a good fit for me. I fell in love with the school on my visit. I loved the coaching staff and the academic support for the baseball program. I'm thinking about majoring in pre-med and the fact that there is a med school right by campus was a big plus for me. The coaches are all great and very easy to talk to."
VANCE VIZCAINO (INF // Wake Forest, N.C.)
A talented player from a baseball family, Vance Vizcaino has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. At 6-3, he is capable of playing anywhere in the infield and will only continue to develop hits talents at the plate where he hits from the left side. Vizcaino has participated in the Area Code Games in each of the past two years as a member of the Oakland Athletics squad in 2010 and Washington Nationals team earlier this summer. A product of Wakefield High School in Wake Forest, N.C., he also took part in the 2011 East Coast Pro Showcase at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse, N.Y.
Serrano on Vizcaino: "Vance is a big, strong left-handed bat with huge upside. He comes from a baseball family and is a very fundamentally sound player who has the potential to play any of the four infield spots."
Vizcaino on Tennessee: "I chose Tennessee because the facilities are outstanding, the conference is outstanding and I will have a good opportunity to compete for a starting position early in my career. I couldn't ask for a better coaching staff."