Hoss' Loss Is Vols Gain

In an era of ever-shrinking scholarships and ever-present injuries, it pays to have versatile performers with diverse talents and competitive fire on your college football team.

Enter Jared "Hoss" Hostetter: A four-year starter at Lawrence County High School in Louisa, Ky., who has played defensive end, tight end, offensive guard, middle linebacker, fullback, punter and kicker during his high school career.

Hostetter was the first prospect to commit to the Vols, pledging his signature last spring, and he's the last prospect you'd expect to change his mind. However he will, and has, changed his body with his football future in mind.

As a junior, Hostetter played middle linebacker where he earned all-state honors after recording 81 tackles and picking off three passes. He also played offensive guard and helped the Bulldogs compiled over 4,000 yards total offense en route to a 12-1 record and Kentucky's Class-3A regional finals.

"We put him in the middle to keep opponents from running away from him," said Wildcats head coach Gary McPeek. "We stunted him some and he had some big plays. He sheds blockers well and even being that big, he uses his speed to run things down. Our defensive coordinator, Joey Cecil, has done a great job with our defense putting them in the right spots to make plays and Jared's made a bunch of them."

To fully appreciate what Hostetter accomplished in his first year as a middle linebacker and offensive guard, you have to consider his size. He was one of a couple of players who was a two-way starter for Lawrence County and took on the challenges of playing the demanding Mike backer role, as well as, becoming a special teams stalwart at an imposing 6-4, 285 pounds.

When he sent out highlight tapes to several schools he was interested in attending, Tennessee was on the list and the Vol coaches were impressed by his size and mobility as measured by a 4.75 time in the 40. Acting quickly, UT's football brain trust invited Hostetter to Junior Day and the Orange and White game. Two weeks after the spring contest, Hostetter was back in Knoxville for another unofficial visit and committed to become a Vol.

When UT coaches first saw Hostetter on film they projected him as a defensive end that might eventually become a defensive tackle. However Hostetter had fallen in love with the nonstop action at MLB and wanted to prove he could play there on the next level.

So he decided to recreate himself in the form of a classic standup linebacker and through sheer will, discipline and hard work shed 50 pounds while dropping his time in the 40 to a 4.6. Simultaneously, he increased his bench press to 335, his power clean to 365 and his squat to over 500.

When Hostetter entered his senior campaign, he weighed a rock solid 235 and had the speed to run down tailbacks from sideline to sideline or cover wide receivers crossing the middle.

"I like playing up," he said. "I didn't really want to be on the line. I wanted to help my speed and stuff because going into the SEC it's a fast pace, and I just really wanted to improve my speed."

Although his team wasn't nearly as successful as his junior season, Hostetter had an outstanding individual campaign, recording 108 tackles with a pair of interceptions as the Bulldogs went 7-3. He was named first-team all-state and was the top vote-getter at linebacker.

Now Tennessee coaches plan to give Hostetter a good look at linebacker, fully aware he could eventually grow back into a defensive end or tackle. His high school coach also sees potential for Hostetter at tight end — a position of need at UT.

He's got good hands," said McPeek. "He catches the football well. He had a big spring at tight end for us and I really like him there. I think he's a heck of a prospect there. I know they (Vols) are talking about linebacker or defensive end and he's very capable of playing there in their scheme of things. He's a heck of a football player."

Tennessee wasn't Hostetter's only choice nor was it the only school he visited, but it was the one he fell in love with.

"He visited Ohio State, visited Marshall, which is real close to us here, South Carolina and Virginia," said McPeek. "He's got a real good ACT score and he could go to just about any school in the country. He was highly recruited by Michigan State, Northwestern and some other Big Ten schools. Kentucky offered and so did Louisville. There were a bunch of schools and we really got the ball rolling early.

"To be honest with you, he went down to Tennessee for one visit on Junior Day and he went back for the spring game and just fell in love with the place."

When Hostetter returned to UT in November for his official visit it was deja vu all over again.

"The most amazing thing I saw this year was the Tennessee-Kentucky game," he said. "It was shocking how many people come to the games there. It was just wild."

Odds are: Hoss will see wilder days on the Hill before he rides off into the sunset.

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