October 7, 2013

Malone talks 'better atmosphere' on Rocky Top

Josh Malone has been on the University of Tennessee campus so many times in recent years that the four-star wide receiver and nationally coveted player has a unique perspective on the Volunteers' program.

And what the 6-foot-3, 187-pound Malone saw this weekend on Rocky Top was the program's continued culture change under first-year head coach Butch Jones.

"The difference is the atmosphere is a lot more … it's just a better atmosphere and it wasn't like going through the motions of just doing things," said Malone, the state's second-ranked player with an offer list crowding 40. "They're doing things the right way."

Malone, who now has officially visited both Georgia and Tennessee and has November trips to Florida State (Nov. 1) and Clemson (Nov. 15), praised both the experience and coaches' approach coming off his most recent trip to Tennessee.

"What sticks out really is how they played with a great team and all the time I got to spend with the coaches," said Malone, whose star first began to shine two years ago from his work with Nashville-based In Full Motion/Playmakers Academy. "That's good to see because it shows the coaches care about you, not just for four years but a lifetime. They're showing they're always going to be there for their players for a lifetime."

Malone acknowledged that Jones has taken the lead on his recruitment and made clear to him that Tennessee's prioritized Malone in its rebuilding process.

"I have a good relationship with butch. He's making me a priority and he keeps really appealing to me about rebuilding the program," Malone said. "As a player, you want to go to a place where you're needed and wanted."

Hosted by freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs, Malone also was part of the first group of Vols' recruits and their families to be taken out on the Tennessee River Sunday for breakfast and more time with coaches. The University of Tennessee recently saw its request granted for the river, which is where the school's rowing team practices and has its locker room inside the Tennessee Boathouse, to be considered part of campus.

"It was great. That was a good little set up," Malone said of the boat outing. "They had a Playstation 3 and we were just hanging around getting to know recruits and coaches."

Malone also spent time with recruits Sunday afternoon watching NFL games, including the Titans-Chiefs contest, at Jones' home and toured the business school as well.

"It was really just a good experience," Malone explained. "We went to the business school up there, which was real impressive too."

Malone said Dobbs gave him a simple message.

"(Dobbs) said that they've got a great coaching staff and all the guys respect them," said Malone, who intends to be a mid-term enrollee. "He was talking about this season, that it's the foundation. He was just telling me really that Tennessee is going to be a force, something to worry about in the future.

"It's appealing because it gives you the opportunity to come in and play early and make an instant impact. And it's a chance to contribute to building the hometown program back up."

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