McDowell taking notes from Vols freshman

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For many high school athletes who dream of playing at the next level they often like to model their game after and take notes from some of the top collegiate and professional athletes who play their sport.

When Tennessee commit Cortez McDowell has free time to turn on his TV set or make a trip up to his future home in Knoxville he has three players in mind that he likes to watch and that help him sharpen his skills as a fellow defensive back.

In fact, there is one on the Locust Grove (Ga.) High School standout's list of favorite players that he expects to be playing on the same side of the ball with in the near future in Neyland Stadium.

"I really look up to my boy (Tennessee freshman) Cam Sutton a lot," the Scout four-star safety told InsideTennessee. "Me and him grew up together and played against each other in high school. We are both excited that we will get to play together next year. I've enjoyed watching him play this season and take notes from him."

McDowell, who pledged to the Big Orange back on July 16, has seen his fare share of the former Jonesboro (Ga.) High School three-sport star in action this year for the Vols, as he has made four trips to Rocky Top this season to take in games.

This year Sutton has started all 12 games and has been one of the most consistent players in a secondary that has appeared vulnerable in conference games, as he has accumulated 39 tackles, seven pass breakups, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a sack.

To see a first-year player have the success that Sutton has had is a good sign for first-year Tennessee head coach Butch Jones who acknowledged that most of his team's depth is coming out of the 2014 recruiting class that ranks second in the country just points behind Alabama.

"It just goes to show you that even the young guys can make an impact and excel at the college level," McDowell said. "We are all very excited an having a lot of fun right now, but we know when we get up here we have to turn it on and get going."

The No. 20 safety in the country has also enjoyed watching two professional players over the years.

"D.J. Swearinger and Ed Reed are two that cross my mind when thinking of the best safeties," he said. "They play with aggression and are great leaders. I always want to be a leader out on the football field."

While it appeared as if the Tennessee program was headed in the right direction after defeating a No. 11-ranked South Carolina team they instead went on to lose four straight games before winning at Kentucky. Despite the downward spiral McDowell remains excited about the direction the program is going in.

"The character that is behind this team is what has impressed me the most," he said. "The entire staff is filled with great guys and what they are doing with recruiting and the program is speaking volumes. The family sense up here is something you can't miss."

McDowell took his official visit this weekend and gave the time in Knoxville high marks.

"It was great," said McDowell, who also plans to play baseball on Rocky Top. "Spent time with the coaches and their families."

The high school football season is now over for McDowell, who had 11 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in the Wildcats' 36-15 loss in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs.

On the season, McDowell had 79 tackles on defense and forced four turnovers.

He will not enroll early Tennessee as he will play prep baseball this spring.

"I'm ready to be up here but first I want to enjoy my last year of high school baseball," he said. "I will play center field and bat leadoff where I can use my speed."

The Vols hope one day that the 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety can patrol the center of the field for them as well.

Scout and InsideTennessee recruiting analyst Danny Parker contributed to this report.

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