Cherry: 'Butch recruits better than most'

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To some high-school football prospects, Butch Jones is simply better than the rest.

Cecil Cherry agrees and that's part of the reason why the middle linebacker is bringing his talent to Tennessee in 2015.

"It's just a better tradition and I see that Butch recruits better than most recruiters I talked to out of the 31 offers I had. It just feels like home, and I feel like I can come to the SEC and do something," Cherry told InsideTennessee.

The second-highest rated junior middle 'backer in Florida gave his verbal commitment to the Volunteers staff on June 14 while in town visiting. From phone calls prior to that trip to the sit-down in Knoxville, Cherry just feels right about an orange-clad future.

"Coach Jones said that the thing about me that he liked was he seen something different in me out of all the different kids, like when he first seen me like he felt like he knew me for a year and he only met me since we've been on the phone and we talked on the phone for like 30 minutes," Cherry said. "Then, after that, he was like, 'Boy I love you' this and that."

No rankings from FOX Sports and Scout were released for the Class of 2015 when Cherry made his declaration. So, he was somewhat off the radar.

"I just like to hit like Ray Lewis, my role model, and I'm a leader out there on the field," said Cherry, who is now rated a four-star prospect and No. 297 in the Scout 300.

The league in which the Volunteers play carries with it a reputation all of its own, including down in the Frostproof, Fla., region.

"It's smashmouth football because of the SEC, playing against Bama and then it's a tradition playing at Frostproof."

Cherry's cousin is former Tennessee running back Tony Thompson. Another former Vol runner, Travis Henry, is Cherry's uncle-in-law.

"(Thompson) talked to my dad and my dad was like, 'It's good tradition because your cousin came through there,'" Cherry said.

The No. 10 middle linebacker in the junior class was in attendance to see the Volunteers fall 31-17 to the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Saturday. Plans are to make it up to Knoxville for the games versus Georgia (Oct. 5) and Auburn (Nov. 9). The drive is 12 hours but Cherry says he hopes to fly.

"Just feeling the atmosphere and getting to know coach Butch more and build this relationship," said Cherry, who blew it up as a Frostproof sophomore with 115 tackles and two interceptions.

The Sunshine State standout is getting to know Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen as well.

"Thigpen, he tells nothing but the truth," Cherry said, "and he told my friend, another linebacker recruit, when I get you and him in here I'm done recruiting. I'm going to go through the process of getting him in this Vol family and get this thing going."

The hopes are to take some online classes or "double up" so he can enroll on Rocky Top in January 2015. Cherry says he'll major in sports management.

"At first I wanted to be an undertaker but then I thought about it and then I wanted to deal with sports," said Cherry, whose father is an undertaker.

If Cherry lives up to the billing, perhaps both options are available and he can bury ball carriers while in Knoxville.

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 FOX Sports NEXT team July 2011.
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