Stoked About Stokes

Getting an early commitment from four-star wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes is the football equivalent of opening the 2008 season against UCLA with a 70-yard touchdown pass — it may not be the harbinger of a breakthrough campaign on the horizon, but it's a ripping good start that helps allay ongoing concerns.

In addition to acquiring a pledge from the highest rated receiver Tennessee has committed since Robert Meachem in 2003, it shows the Vols can still range beyond their region for top talent. It also indicates UT's revamped offensive staff, while perhaps lacking an ace recruiter of Trooper Taylor's magnitude, has the skills to appeal to premiere prospects as receiver coach Latrelle Scott helped close the deal for Stokes.

Most significantly it gives Tennessee's 2009 recruiting season a genuine jump start that can generate the type of early momentum that is the hallmark of elite signing classes. Coming off the lowest ranked class in Phillip Fulmer's highly held tenure on The Hill makes such an early get valuable if not vital.

In the process Tennessee adds a potential impact receiver with the size, quickness and pass-catching skills to contribute as a true freshman. Ranked No. 5 nationally by, Je'Ron Stokes of Philadelphia, Pa., runs a blazing 4.45 time in the 40, a 10.8 time in the 100m, a 22.6 in the 200m and a 14.1 in the 110m hurdles.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound athlete is also an honor student with a 3.2 GPA. Stokes set a Northwest High School record with 177 receiving yards in one game last year and 28 catches for 617 yards on the season. He had another 470 rushing yards.

As a sophomore at Penn Charter High School, which he attended before transferring to Northeast, Stokes caught 10 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns and added 30 tackles and four interceptions on defense. He also returned a punt for a TD. He reportedly bench presses 265 pounds, squats 425 pounds and has a 35-inch vertical. recruiting analyst and former coach Bob Lichtenfels has seen the wideout play several times and offers this scouting report.

"Stokes is very physical and plays bigger than he is. He is tough to check in man coverage. Stokes possesses sprinter's speed and has that extra gear. He has outstanding ball skills and concentration. If a ball is thrown in his direction he is coming down with it. Very intense competitor who lays it all on the line every play. Runs solid routes and will catch the ball in traffic."

Stokes competitive fire is also reflected in the following self evaluation: "I have a will to win. I have good speed and run good routes. I'm a student of the game and am always working on my game. I have great hands and can catch anything.

"You never stop working to get better and I'm always catching and trying to improve my hands. I want to be the best receiver in the country. I'm also doing a lot of speed training and working on my routes a lot."

Stokes, who visited Knoxville last week, chose UT over approximately 25 other offers, including his other finalists Oklahoma, Illinois and Penn State. He also received offers from Connecticut, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina State, Texas Tech, Pittsburgh, Michigan State, UCLA and Syracuse.

As good a job as UT's staff did in making Stokes comfortable and selling him on the program's offense and future, it did receive a nice assist from a longtime Keystone State resident and father of former Vol and fan favorite Mark Jones.

"I actually took an unofficial visit to Tennessee when I was a freshman in high school with my pastor and my friend Mark Jones who played there before going to the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Stokes explained to's Matt Alkire. "I loved it down there because the stadium was absolutely packed and the fans there get really crazy. The facilities were top of the line and I met Head Coach Phil Fulmer who was very nice to me. I got to meet some of their players while I was there and watch them practice. It was just a great experience."

Stokes is sure to enhance that experience when he dons the orange.

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