KNOXVILLE - Tennessee generated some recruiting fireworks on Wednesday night.
Four-star linebacker Dillon Bates gave the Volunteers some long-expected good news when he announced his commitment to coach Butch Jones' program during ESPNU's coverage of Nike's "The Opening," an invitation-only combine, camp and competition featuring some of the nation's top high school prospects.
The Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High School product is the son of Bill Bates, a four-year starter at safety for Tennessee (1979-83) and a 15-year veteran and three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys. His brothers, Graham and Hunter, played collegiately at Arkansas State and Northwestern, respectively.
"That whole coaching staff [at UT] has done a great job with that last class and this class coming up," Dillon Bates said on ESPNU after announcing his decision and putting on a UT hat. "I'm really impressed with what they've done and the hard work they've put in, I'm just ready to go to work."
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Dillon Bates had a final trio that included Alabama and Florida, and his list of scholarship offers included Texas, South Carolina, Ohio State, Texas A&M, UCLA, Miami, Louisville, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
The U.S. Army All-American game participant made three visits to Knoxville in February and March.
Rivals.com rates Bates as the third-ranked outside linebacker prospect and the No. 59 overall player in the nation. According to 247sports.com, Bates the nation's No. 204 overall prospect and the 18th-ranked outside linebacker prospect in the country. He made 104 tackles during an all-state junior season.
In addition to the offensive and defensive lines, linebacker was a position of need for Tennessee's 2014 class, which currently has 18 verbal commitments. The Vols lose five seniors at the position after this season and need to add quality depth behind juniors Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson. Bates is Tennessee's third true linebacker commitment.
Bates' pledge puts Tennessee's 2014 class back atop Rivals.com's team rankings, and the Vols have the nation's sixth-, eighth- and ninth-ranked classes according to ESPN, Scout.com and 247sports.com.
Staff Writer Stephen Hargis contributed to this story.
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.