If you spent any amount of time watching Tennessee football this past season, one thing was abundantly clear — the Vols’ could NOT contain the edge.
The Vols had the most trouble with athletic quarterbacks, specifically against Missouri’s Maty Mauk and Auburn’s Nick Marshall.
Both Mauk and Marshall (and Tre Mason) exploited the Vols’ lack of total team speed. Mauk rushed for 114 yards in Missouri’s win against UT, while Marshall rushed for 214 yards in Auburn’s blowout win. Tennessee gave up a total of 444 rushing yards against Auburn.
The Vols have to recruit speed if they have any plans of turning their defense around.
Enter 2014 linebacker Dillon Bates.
Bates, the son of former Vols defensive back Bill Bates, is everything UT needs on defense.
The 6’3″/220 lb native of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (Ponta Vedra) is a four-star linebacker that’s rated as the #6 outside-linebacker in the nation and the #13 player in the state of Florida (247Sports). Bates runs the 40 in 4.51 seconds, which is plenty of speed for a outside linebacker.
When watching Bates’ senior highlights, the first thing that jumps out is his field awareness. He’s patient in watching plays develop. Bates has enough speed to cover the field (as seen at the 2:00 minute mark), which is something the Vols were missing this season.
Bates also has great ball skills. He can drop into coverage if needed, but obviously his strength is stopping the run.
When asked to blitz, Bates is capable of fighting through running backs and getting to the quarterback.
Bates will need to bulk up some when he gets on campus (being an early enrollee would’ve benefited him, as well as any others, greatly), which might be the one thing that keeps him off the field early. Especially considering the Vols are getting Curt Maggitt back in 2014, as well as bringing in JuCo linebacker Chris Weatherd.
You might not see Bates’ impact immediately, but he’s a player that will be extremely important to the future success of the Volunteers.