Dillon Bates' position coach in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Corey Crosby, knew right away he was coaching the son of an ex-NFL standout.
And it had nothing to do with his last name.
"I knew after like 30 seconds. You'd know even if you didn't know who Dillon was," said Crosby, who vividly recalls watching Bill Bates bring down ball carriers for the Dallas Cowboys. "He knows where to be at. He knows how to make plays at the right time. The leverage of football—you can tell being around his dad and football all his life has helped him learn the game and its techniques and fundamentals. He's got those down."
Crosby, who coaches at Bamberg-Ehrhardt (S.C.) High School, said sound technique from prospects who grew up with a father who played in the NFL isn't uncommon, but Bates' drive to get better is.
Crosby has seen countless promising athletes let their family name go to their heads. It's not the case with Bates. Not even close, he says.
It's that coachability that leaves no doubt in Crosby's mind that Bates will one day grown into a "dominate" linebacker in the SEC.
"Me, personally, I met him Sunday and I think he was the most improved linebacker in this group," he said. "He's a kid that I can see in three years that could dominate the SEC because he knows the game so well. He takes coaching, and in order to get to the next level you have to learn how to take coaching and how to get better at the little things. A lot of kids, when they're real talents, they don't want to work on the little things, not Bates.
"In the meeting room, he's always asking questions and soaking everything in. That's the key for a great player in the SEC. He's the first one in the meeting room and the last one out."
Crosby said size is the only thing holding Bates back from competing for a starting job right when he arrives in Knoxville.
But the coach was quick to say he doesn't see that being a problem for long.
"If he gets bigger, he'll come in and make a push for it. Right now, it's only the size. The mental aspect of the game, he's got that down pat," Crosby said, who sees bates playing weak-side linebacker at the next level. "He can add 15 to 20 pounds and can play all three sports. That's something that's really great. He'll throw that weight on fast, too. He just wants it, man."
While Crosby sang Bates' praises — saying he was arguably the most gifted player he coached during the all-star week — he believes the best has yet to come.
"Bates has a lot of talent. And he hasn't event reached his peak yet," Crosby told IT. "The sky is the limit for this kid."
InsideTennessee managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this report.