Stoked About Stokes

During a rare football recruiting campaign when the state of Tennessee is loaded with lustrous prospects, none is brighter or more intriguing than linebacker John Stokes of Memphis University School.

No, his name isn't as well known as Rae Sykes, Chris Donald, Harrison Smith and others, but his talent is just as large and his potential is practically unlimited.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior runs a time of 4.70 in the 40, and carries a weighted 4.62 GPA at MUS where he took three AP courses (European history, English, Latin IV). He recorded a 29 on his ACT and 2230 on the new SAT 2400-point scale.

Yes, he can play football, too. As a junior, Stokes posted 80 tackles with 10 for losses and he recovered three fumbles to earn All-State honors and help MUS to its second consecutive state crown.

He has scholarship offers from such paragons of higher education as Vanderbilt, where his parents graduated, and Stanford, which he visited unofficially last month. However, he has also been offered by gridiron giants Alabama, Auburn, Michigan and Tennessee.

"I'm pretty big and have long arms," Stokes told's Allen Wallace. "I move pretty well for my size and have good straight ahead speed. I'm strong, tall and just make plays on defense. I think most schools like how versatile I am. I'm still trying to improve. I want to be a better overall athlete and get stronger. I'm also working on rushing the passer and my man coverage skills."

Stokes had a good showing at the Hoover 7-on-7 passing tournament in June, and has made strides in the weight room as well. He should be even better manning the outside linebacker (buzzer) role in the Owls' 3-5 alignment.

He projects as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at the next level, but could assume a hybrid role in which he lines up at linebacker and either blitzes the QB or drops back in coverage. He could also take on some backside zone responsibility from the down position. His mobility is augmented by excellent anticipation and recognition skills which he's refined through extensive film study.

"I read plays and get to the ball quickly," Stokes told Mike Eubanks of "I cover ground pretty fast because of how big I am. I watch a lot of film for a guy in high school. I try to react to the ball quick and get to the ball, and I make a big hit when I get there."

John Stokes is already a big hit on the recruiting trail, as college coaches see him as a difference maker on defense. He says he doesn't have a leader and his interest in Tennessee is genuine despite his family ties to rival Vanderbilt.

"My first scholarship offer came from Vanderbilt back in March," Stokes told Wallace. "Both of my parents went there, but I never really had a favorite school growing up. My parents aren't pushing a specific school either. Vanderbilt is about three hours away, but I don't think that will matter. I think it does make it harder to go far away from home, but playing football keeps you very busy, so even if I stayed close it's not like I'd be able to come home all the time."

Stokes is certainly smart enough to know that schools like Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn offer a lot in the way of competitive advantages for a player with the potential to play professionally. However his other three favorites — Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Stanford — offer a tradition of academic excellence. So much talent, so many options.

"I want a combo of athletics and academics," Stokes told Wallace. "I want coaches that help the players improve and I'd like to play as soon as possible. I'd love to be part of a competitive program that I feel is gonna win."

He has made an unofficial visit to Knoxville earlier in the summer and will likely come back for an official visit this fall.

"Tennessee has a huge football program and operation," Stokes said. "They have great support and sell out every game. Plus, they compete for the SEC championship every year and that's arguably the best conference.

"Alabama is actually very similar to Tennessee. They both have great tradition and take football very seriously."

They also take their recruiting very seriously and each would seriously like to add a student/athlete of Stokes' caliber to their coffers.

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