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March 23, 2013
Rivals Camp Orlando: Bates dominates
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Four-star athlete Dillon Bates of Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High has little left to prove on the high school football field, but being the son of longtime NFL player Bill Bates brings extra expectations.
Bates arrived at the fifth stop of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour outside of Orlando with the mindset to prove any remaining naysayers wrong. The No. 58 player in the Rivals100 did just that, leaving with an invitation to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and being named the Rivals.com Recruit of the Week.
"I have heard some people say all my offers are from my dad having a name," Bates said. "I want to prove myself -- that I can play with and I can compete with all these national players -- and earn those four or five stars.
"When people say that, I don't take it too much to heart but I just feel like that makes me work harder and try to make me prove myself. It makes me be a better player, not just to make myself a good player but the best player I can be, and that all starts in the weight room and then out on the field."
Dillon's father is a three-time Super Bowl-winning safety who played 15 seasons in the National Football League. His hits are still on NFL Films highlight reels.
The elder Bates said his son has earned the attention and that his reputation does not overshadow what happens on the field or in recruiting.
"I hope it helps him a little but I have had two other boys go on to play college football and when they were getting recruited the name didn't help that much, so it is what you do on the field," Bill Bates said.
Rivals.com regional analyst Kynon Codrington was extremely impressed with Bates at the event.
"He was the best and most complete linebacker here," Codrington said. "He was good in pass coverage, and we know he can hit. Really, the only question about him was the coverage, but he really impressed everyone. He can stay on the field on third downs in a nickel or dime set and not be a liability.
"What separates Dillon from a lot of players are his instincts and knowledge of the game."
According to Dillon Bates, living the life of a professional player's son was a part of his development and one major point that his father's name helped in influencing his game.
"I don't really remember a time I didn't know football," he said. "Growing up with that background and knowing football has really helped me from an IQ standpoint and having a mentality and work ethic that I got from my dad."
His ability -- and intangibles -- has given Bates an offer list as long as any player's in the country.
His decision is not expected soon, and it is not as cut and dry as following in his father's footsteps by becoming a legacy player at Tennessee.
Bill Bates said the new Volunteers staff has made his alma mater a much more realistic landing spot than it has been under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.
"I love that school and everything that Coach (Butch) Jones is doing," the elder Bates said. "(If it were Phil) Fulmer - yes. So many things have happened the last few years, I wouldn't have wanted to push Dillon to go there, but Coach Jones has done a great job and they are recruiting the heck out of him."
The job that Jones is doing has not gone unnoticed by Dillon, either.
"I'm definitely taking a little harder look into Tennessee," he said. "With the history my dad has there and with all of the other players that have had dads there in this class, too, I am definitely taking a hard look at Tennessee."
Both Bateses maintain that the process is far from over, and that is the way each wants it.
"You only go through this once," Bill said. "Some of the greatest memories I have are when I was getting recruited.
"I have always told him to enjoy the process but that eventually you'll get to the point where you have to commit and decide where you are going to go to college."
If he were to step farther out of his father's shadow and go to archrival Alabama, it would be OK with Bill.
"I will be the first one to say 'Roll Tide' if my son is playing for that team," Bill said. "That is just the way it goes, and it would be the same from UCLA to USC, South Carolina, Florida, Notre Dame to whatever team has been recruiting him, and all the big dogs are on him.
"I want him to enjoy the process, and wherever he decides to go I will support him as best we can."
With nearly a calendar year until National Signing Day, Bill Bates and legions of fans from major college football programs will have to wait on Dillon.
"This whole thing is wide open," Dillon said. "I am still trying to visit as many of these places as I can, so I'm not 100 percent on where I am going to go."
Another 'backer joins Bates
Through four events, the Rivals Camp Series produced four players per location who received invitations to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge.
That changed in Orlando.
Even though nearly half of the 217 participants had at least one offer, only one athlete was selected to join Dillon Bates at the summer-ending event. Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood linebacker Kain Daub was identified by the Rivals.com staff as deserving a spot.
Codrington said the No. 60 player in the Rivals 100 earned his way into the camp.
"He is big and physical inside," Codrington said. "If he can get his hands onto a running back and redirect him that really helps his pass coverage, and it is something he is working on."
His ability to play multiple positions, according to Codrington, is something many schools like.
"His size and strength are very impressive," Codrington said. "He can slide down to the defensive line and be nasty. He is a downhill player who, when between the tackles, can really be disruptive and impose his will."
Daub was appreciative of the invitation to the elite event despite -- what he said was not his best effort in Orlando.
"I can play better than I did today," he said. "I did all right, but I expect more from myself."
Daub joins 17 others as the first group of players invited to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge.
RayRay of sunshine
Class of 2015 running back RayRay McCloud entered the Rivals Camp Series event without an offer.
After winning the Offensive Skills MVP award, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound back from Tampa (Fla.) Sickles is hoping that changes.
"It would be great," McCloud said. "I want to keep getting bigger and stronger. I think that will help."
McCloud rushed for nearly 1,400 yards as a sophomore and participated in the Rivals.com Underclassman Challenge at DeSoto (Texas) High. He said both experiences have made him better.
"I think both camps gave me a chance to improve," McCloud said. "Hopefully, I can keep improving and have schools take notice."