KNOXVILLE - Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class now has its kicker.
And the Volunteers might have nabbed one of the nation's best at the position.
Aaron Medley, from Marshall County High School in the southern middle Tennessee town of Lewisburg, became the 13th verbal commitment for the Vols' 2014 class when he announced his pledge via Twitter on Wednesday.
A three-star prospect according to Rivals, Medley has worked with former Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit since he was a freshman. Now a kicking coach and consultant who privately trains between 80 and 90 kickers per year, Wilhoit had high praise for his pupil, who was one of eight kickers to attend his spring training program aimed specifically at preparing kickers for the college recruiting process.
"Personally, I think arguably he's the best kicker that I've ever coached," he told the Times Free Press. "He's 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2, about 170 pounds, but he'll still put another 20 pounds of muscle on over the next couple of years. I think Tennessee specifically targeted him.
"He grew up a Vol fan, and he was in the state, but even if he was from Florida or Georgia, he had offers from Oklahoma and Texas A&M. There's only probably about four or five main offers that have gone out to kickers across the country for the 2014 class. He holds two of the biggest ones."
Michael Palardy, who exited spring practice as the leader to handle all of Tennessee's kicking duties, will be a senior this season. The Vols signed kicker George Bullock in 2012, but the only future options with any experience beyond this season are walk-on kicker Derrick Brodus and punter Matt Darr. Tennessee also may add Wyoming transfer Tim Gleeson, the Australian punter who had a solid freshman season for the Cowboys, though he'd have to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Wilhoit said Medley made a 65-yard field goal at a kicking camp earlier this month and booted a kickoff through the uprights with Texas A&M coaches watching and added that Notre Dame's interest in Medley was "coming on."
Tennessee and special teams coordinator Mark Elder offered Medley a scholarship earlier this week.
"The fact that he can do all three I think gives Tennessee a lot of options," said Wilhoit, a freshman All-American in 2003 and a first-team All-SEC selection in 2006 as a senior at Tennessee. "I don't think there's a dual-threat guy or better pure kicker and kickoff guy in the country. He's one of top two or three kickoff guys in the country."
Three of the kickers considered among the nation's best play in Tennessee.
Memphis University School's Gary Wunderlich, a Virginia commitment, and Medley are the rated as the country's top two kickers for the 2014 class according to 247sports, and Oklahoma, Ohio State and Tennessee have been by the Baylor School this spring to evaluate Rafael Gaglianone, the Mr. Football award winner whom LSU invited to kick at its camp this summer.
Wilhoit has worked with all three.
"He's been with me the whole time," he said of Medley, "and it's been amazing seeing him get that much better and improve. He's just an incredible kicker. He's very smooth off the ground and gets great height on his kicks."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.