Another runner on the radar

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As Tennessee fans saw in 2012, a quality running game can greatly contribute to a Pro-Style offense as the Volunteers got back on track with a record-breaking season in terms of yardage and points.

Keeping an eye on the future, coach Butch Jones and his staff want to maintain a stable of talent in the backfield. Presently, Tennessee does not have a running back committed for the Class of 2013. That is certain to change between now and National Signing Day on Feb. 6.

Senior year is a final auditioning ground for players across the country. A running back that grinded throughout 2012 and is starting to turn more heads, including Tennessee's, is Matthew Dayes.

The Cypress Bay (Fla.) High School three-star is ranked No. 86 in the country but that is subject to change. His film is circulating across the landscape and it made its way to Knoxville recently. Vol running backs coach Jay Graham put in a phone call to Dayes on Wednesday afternoon.

"It went pretty well," Dayes told InsideTennessee. "Basically, he told me they're going to come down tomorrow or Friday and start building a relationship."

Dayes' hometown of Weston, Fla., is roughly 865 miles from Neyland Stadium. Thus, the teenager doesn't have an overflowing knowledge of Rocky Top and admitted that "country music" is the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of Tennessee. Although, he admitted that he is familiar with several of the former Vols in the NFL like Arian Foster, Peyton Manning and Jason Witten.

Finding a stepping stone to the NFL is not Dayes' greatest need out of a university like some prospects.

"Pretty much the right fit if they type of offense that I run and family-oriented and a school with a good education," he said.

Tennessee assistant coach Jay Graham is fighting to help the Vols add to their backfield with the Class of 2013.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Coordinator Mike Bajakian is set to install a Spread offense with some Pro-Style concepts on The Hill. It's an offense that helped running back Isaiah Pead become the second-round NFL Draft selection of the St. Louis Rams.

Dayes is of similar size to Pead as both are in the 5-foot-10, 200-pound range. However, Dayes is slightly more than a tenth of a second slower in the 40-yard dash (Pead clocked 4.41 at NFL Combine).

With the chips on the table and Cypress Bay taking on Apopka in the FHSAA Class 8A state championship, Dayes threw down a royal flush with 174 rushing yards, 36 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

"He runs with tremendous power," FOX Sports NEXT national analyst Jamie Newberg said after seeing Dayes in the state final. "In fact, most of his yards came after first contact. He has good speed and balance and made a few ‘wow' runs on the night when you thought the defense either had him stopped or pinned."

Apopka came out on top 53-50, but it wasn't from a lack of production from its top runner.

"Just how hard we worked, and we played against a good offense. We did real well. We just kept scoring and didn't give up. We just didn't come out on top, but we gave it our all," Dayes said.

The former North Carolina State commitment added a Vanderbilt offer recently and has a double-digit number of programs seeking his services.

"I'm not leaning toward any school right now; every team is pretty much the same," said Dayes, who could have a Tennessee offer in hand by the end of the week. He already received an offer from current Tennessee coach Butch Jones when he was still at Cincinnati.

Dayes backed off his pledge to the Wolfpack when head coach Tom O'Brien was fired in late November. He said he is indifferent on playing in the ACC, SEC or another conference.

"Obviously, the SEC is better, but I don't think that really matters to me as long as the school has a great education and an OK football team and a chance to get to play."

Dayes said he plans on majoring in Criminology.

"It just seems like something I'd probably be interested in," he said.

Have a look at some of Dayes' senior highlights in the film below:

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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