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Monday, March 11, 2013
Tennessee living up to its legacies

By Dave Hooker

Rebuilding Tennessee, and in particular Tennessee recruiting, will be challenging. Butch Jones could use the help.

Via legacies, he's getting it.

Berry
Elliot, left, and Evan Berry would be third-generation Volunteers if they decide to choose Tennessee.
In an unusual coincidence, the Volunteers have a handful of prospects with strong ties to the football program. Just recently, Tennessee picked up commitments from ESPN Watch List defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. from Knoxville (Tenn.) Webb and receiver Neiko Creamer from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian. Kelly's father, Todd Kelly, was a standout defensive lineman for the Vols in the early 1990s. Creamer's father, Andre Creamer, was a defensive back for the Vols in the '80s.

But wait. There's more.

Tennessee has long been in the hunt to land Evan and Elliot Berry, who are twin brothers from Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside. The two are the younger brothers of former Tennessee All-American defensive back Eric Berry, who is now a standout for the Kansas City Chiefs. Their father, James Berry, was a running back for Tennessee from 1978-81. Evan is an athlete prospect. Elliot is an outside linebacker.

Understandably so, Tennessee has kept the Berry connection strong. James was honored during a Tennessee game last fall. He has long professed a strong love for Tennessee. In fact, there's a YouTube video of Eric surprising his father with a hound puppy like the ever-present Smokey at Tennessee home games. The Vols seem to be in good shape in that recruitment. Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Clemson are among the many schools pursing the Berrys.

Blaise Taylor is also on Tennessee's radar. While his father didn't play football at Tennessee, he did coach for the Vols from 2004 to 2007. Taylor, who is a receiver prospect from Auburn (Ala.) High, and his family have long expressed fondness for their time in Knoxville. Taylor's recruitment, however, will rely largely on where his father ends up coaching. Trooper Taylor is currently unemployed after former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik and his staff were let go following the 2012 season.

Perhaps the biggest target on Tennessee's board of legacies is Dillon Bates, an outside linebacker from Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High who was in Knoxville over the weekend. Bates has scholarship offers from several top schools, including Alabama, Miami, Ohio State and Oklahoma. His father, Bill Bates, is a Knoxville native and played defensive back for Tennessee in the early '80s. He went on to have a 15-year career with the Dallas Cowboys. He is currently an assistant coach at Ponte Vedra, but the ties to Tennessee are still strong.

Landing the Berrys, Taylor and Bates looks quite possible, if not likely. Jones needed help rebuilding the Vols. Family ties are at least giving him a head start.