The outside linebacker, who has already earned a spot in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and has seen his scholarship offer list reach deep into the double figures, accomplished another goal on Saturday by earning a trip to The Opening this summer.
A record 1,700 prep football players competed in the Nike SPARQ Combine in Atlanta, Ga., last weekend. Finishing second overall was Bates with a score of 109.05. He ran a laser-timed 40-yard dash in 4.79 seconds, shuttled a 4.28, leapt vertically 37 inches and logged the fourth-best powerball toss (39 inches).
Tennessee continues to make it known to the 6-foot-3, 213-pounder that he's a priority in the Class of 2014.
"They've been telling me they want me to lead the 2014 class with what I bring to the table in leadership and all that," Bates told InsideTennessee. "Just knowing that is really kind of humbling."
During a February trip to Knoxville, Bates met with coach Butch Jones, spent time with linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen and talked scheme in the office of defensive coordinator John Jancek.
"It's a whole different kind of mentality," Bates said. "There's a lot more energy, a lot more excitement coming in with the new coaches, just a whole new program. It was really good to see."
Tennessee's expansion to the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center with the addition of the Football Training Facility wasn't complete when Bates and his parents visited Rocky Top back in November to see the Volunteers take on Southeastern Conference Eastern Division foe Missouri.
|Dillon Bates' stock has risen as much as any Class of 2014 prospect in the southeast this winter.|
"I was just looking forward to meeting the new coaches and kind of seeing the finished facilities," the Ponte Vedra, Fla., native said. "That was a big thing for me to see what they look like, to see where I'm going to spend most of my time in college.
"It's top-notch facilities. You can't any better than that anywhere you go. So, it was really impressive."
Bates wants to visit as many schools as possible in the coming months to help him narrow his list. With Miami (Fla.) and Tennessee already scratched off, hopes are to also see Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
The outside linebacker had given a list of seven favorite teams earlier this year but made it known that if certain schools that intrigue him place a scholarship offer on the table, that he is willing to listen. He did say that Florida, Notre Dame and Tennessee are recruiting him the hardest.
Recruiting coordinator Tony Alford is heading up the charge for the Fighting Irish in the pursuit of the Tennessee legacy prospect.
"(Alford)'s been straightforward with me as much as he can and kind of taking a different approach to the recruiting process, not telling me how I can be a part as a player but as further in life. It's kind of a different viewpoint," said Bates, whose father Bill was a Volunteer defensive back 1979-82 before becoming an NFL All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys.