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Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Scout's take: Vols add needed playmaker

By Tom Luginbill

Four-star WR Josh Malone, the No. 48 player in the ESPN 300, has committed to Tennessee. Malone's pledge helps solidify the nation's No. 2 class as Butch Jones continues to build a strong foundation in Knoxville.

Here’s how Malone fits with the Volunteers:

What he brings: Size and speed. In today’s game, everyone has at least one or two wide receivers taller than 6-foot-1, but very few have explosive receivers who can be critical impact guys at all three levels of the passing game. Malone can run, but he is also physical in terms of ball skills, and after the catch, he is very difficult to contend with vertically and in the open field. With today’s tall corners and tight coverage, receivers who can catch in traffic, break initial tackles and take it to the house are essential. Malone can do all of that.

How he fits: Incredibly well. Tennessee’s most critical need is offensive playmakers. This commitment couldn’t have come at a more important time. With Alton Howard in place and Jason Croom and Marquez North emerging as freshmen, Malone brings needed playmaking ability, speed and athleticism to Tennessee’s offense. We anticipate him making an immediate splash as a true freshman. Tennessee needs players to increase speed and create mismatches. This is a great start.

Who he reminds us of: Penn State WR Allen Robinson. One of the traits that make Robinson so good is his explosive athleticism given his size. Malone possesses the same attribute. They can both stretch the field, out-jump defenders, and show great body control and sideline awareness in contested matchups. When it comes to extending plays, few big receivers are quality space players, but these two are.

How the class is shaping up: Wonderfully. The Vols are hitting on every major need with this 2014 class. This makes 33 verbal commitments with as many as 14 possible mid-year enrollees. That will be critical as many of those prospects are expected to contribute right away. Malone joins the No. 2 junior college player in WR Lavon Pearson (Quincy, Calif./Feather River College), who adds instant playmaking ability to a roster that has very little aside from Howard. This class is a nice blend of junior college and high school prospects particularly in the trenches. DE Dwayne Hendrix (O’Fallon, Ill./Township), No. 1 juco DT Davonte Lambert (Milledgeville, Ga./Georgia Military), DE Derek Barnett (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy) and No. 6 juco OT Dontavius Blair (Anniston, Ala./Garden City), along with a few others anchor the trenches. They have also seen increased success with in-state prospects with the likes of S Todd Kelly (Knoxville, Tenn./Webb School) and RB Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech Senior). Now the focus is on sustaining. It’s a long way to February.