If a player's verbal commitment is going to be accepted at a non-position of need, he better be elite.
Josh Malone is elite.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is rated by FOX and Scout as the No. 79 player nationally and the No. 15 wide receiver. He's the second-highest rated senior in the Volunteer State, right behind Vol commit Jalen Hurd.
Some have suggested the Vols may not stand as great of a chance with the wideouts already committed.
"It doesn't matter; I'm not afraid of competition," Malone said. "I feel like I'm one of the best wide receivers out there. I'm honestly just looking forward to competing because anywhere I go I'm going to have to compete to get on the field. But I'm just looking forward to competing with other guys and older guys and learn something from them. And also try to get on the field at the same time to be an impact in the offense."
Followers of Tennessee recruiting have been spoiled since the Butch Jones era commenced with so very many high profile recruits visiting unofficially so many times. The Station Camp (Tenn.) High star is one. However, some suggested Tennessee was out of the race with Malone not having driven over to Rocky Top for quite awhile.
"No, they never slipped I probably keep it so close to the vest that people started panicking because I haven't been up there like the whole entire summer until the last couple of weeks ago," Malone said. "They haven't slipped. It's just that I haven't been up there because I've been trying to look at other schools."
After not having been to Knoxville in several weeks, Malone made it to campus to see the open practice, which drew over 39,000 fans to Neyland Stadium.
"That was kind of crazy just because it was a practice," the four-star prospect said. "Usually open practices only have about 2,000 — you know, the parents of the players. But just to have a big showing, that's a good sign for Tennessee football, getting the fans back into it."
The fan base isn't the top factor for the Gallatin, Tenn., resident but it doesn't hurt.
"It's not a big factor, but I like to see support from the fan base just because it's a good sign and that means the fans believe in the program."
Who would be throwing him the football is something of a factor. All four of Tennessee's scholarship quarterbacks are scheduled to return in 2014.
"Yeah it matters," Malone said, "just because I talked to some older wide receivers and some of them get hurt because it's a younger quarterback when someone leaves. Say it's like a situation where I come in and play with a senior quarterback and he leaves that means you've got to rebuild chemistry with the backup quarterback and you've got to start over and the offense basically starts over.
"Yeah, the quarterback is a big decision."
Jones and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen make up the lead sellers of the Vol program.
"Coach Thig is a great recruiter," Malone said. "He's a real funny guy. He's a guy that I like."
Thigpen made the trek to Gallatin, Tenn., on Friday to show that he's a priority for Tennessee and to see the blue-chipper in action. Coach Shaun Hollinsworth's Station Camp team and Malone didn't disappoint as they blew out the No. 8-ranked team in TSSAA Class 6A, Mt. Juliet, 41-3. Malone showed out with five receptions for 115 yards with two touchdowns.
Malone is a young man who's already seen his fair share of the limelight — with more to come. His 7-on-7 team at The Opening was on air nationally, as was the prep season opener, which pitted his team versus a Hurd-led Beech High School team.
"I enjoyed the stage and it definitely steps up the competition because nobody wants to be embarrassed on TV — on national TV at that," Malone said. "It was fun playing against (Hurd) because it was just a shootout."
Look for Malone to take all five of his official visits, including trips to Clemson, Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee.
The Bisons travel to Antioch on Friday.
Check out game clips compiled by InsideTennessee from Malone's season opener versus Beech: