Vols Add WR to Fold

Tennessee lost the football war to Florida on Saturday but won the recruiting battle for one of the Volunteer State's top prospects Wednesday when Rodriguez Wilks of Smyrna committed to UT.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound, wide receiver also plays in the secondary for the Bulldogs and is the half-brother of Vol cornerback Marsalous Johnson. He is rated the nation's No. 62 wideout and chose Tennessee over offers from Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Vanderbilt.

"I just committed this morning," Wilks told Scout.com's Jamie Newberg. "At 10:00 at the school. I announced at school. I told the coaches at UT, coach (David) Cutcliffe. He was happy and very excited. I like him and the entire Tennessee staff. They congratulated me and they are happy I am a Vol."

Tennessee was an early leader for Wilks but competition had drawn even in recent months and it the issue was in doubt until his announcement today.

"It was very tough decision," he confirmed to Newberg. "I sat back and thought about it. I prayed to God, followed my heart and made it. I couldn't have gone wrong. First I narrowed it down to Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Michigan. Then I narrowed it down to Tennessee, South Carolina, Vandy, and Florida. Then I narrowed it down to South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. It came down to Tennessee and Florida."

Wilks indicated the location, the prominence of the program and opportunity to play with his brother were all factors that outweighed any of the current problems the team is experiencing.

"I feel like I have a great opportunity to play as a freshman," he said. "It's close to home and I can play for a great coaching staff. I know they are going through some things but it's a great program to be in.

"I really felt Tennessee recruited me the hardest. They came with it."

Last season Wilks spearheaded Smyrna's drive to the Class-5A state title, catching 60 passes for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. On defense he had 58 tackles with four interceptions three of which he returned for TDs.

In the 2006 championship game the Bulldogs avenged a 13-12 regular season defeat to Ravenwood with a 35-14 victory. The key play in that contest was turned in by Wilks on a 91-yard kickoff return for a TD.

"They (Raptors) just scored and they were kicking off," Wilks recalled. "Their coach told the kicker not to kick to me and he kicked to me anyway. When I broke in the open I heard their coach yell, ‘that's why you don't kick to him.' I loved it. I never got to in a big game like that with college recruiters and I felt like that play turned the game around."

Rodriquez Wilks has consistently clock under 4.5 in the 40, including a 4.46 at the National Junior Combine in San Antonio and a 4.46 at the Adidas Combine.

"His ability to run routes is where I believe he's improved the most," said Smyrna head football coach Phillip Shadowens. "In middle school you can just rely on your ability so much. He was kind of a raw route runner and he's just really worked hard to improve that part of his game. We really saw big improvements this past season with his route running. Of course, he's physical and can get off the ball but he's just really gotten better and more consistent running routes. That's probably been the biggest difference I've seen in him."

Wilks is an outstanding athlete with great core strength. His combination of speed and the ability to gain yards after the catch makes him a good candidate for early playing time at Tennessee. "He uses that big ol' body to shield the ball," Shadowens said. "Of course, we enjoy throwing the ball up to him because he's got like a 38-, 39-inch vertical jump and being 6-2 he can go up and get the ball. He does a great job running the fade and doesn't mind going across the middle. He runs a lot if slants and a lot of dig routes. So he's really got the total package. He's got great breakaway speed. He can get up and get it on the fade. Or he's big and physical and strong and tough and he can go across the middle and challenge you there too."

Smyrna's program has produced a steady stream of Division I football prospects in recent years and Shadowens says Wilks may be the best of the lot.

"He's probably the biggest prospect we've had and we've had a kid go to Stanford and a kid (Marsalous Johnson) go to Tennessee," he said. "We had one to Notre Dame and two kids in a row that signed with Vanderbilt. So we've had some really talented kids but he's probably the best overall athlete we've had here. In my time here he's the most talented overall player that we've had."

In addition to all his physical attributes, Wilks is team captain and gets high marks for his leadership ability. When asked to describe his leadership style Wilks said:

"I'm the type of leader that wants to see his teammates go for it. I don't want to see them give up or have an attitude when a coach yells at them. If a coach don't care that's when he doesn't yell at you. When a coach cares he yells at you and you've got to take it like a man. I'm the type of leader that motivates other players to work harder and go farther."

It's fortunate for Tennessee Wilks decided to go farther while staying closer to home.

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