KNOXVILLE - University of Tennessee quarterback commitment Justin Worley was given one of the nation's most prestigious high school football awards Thursday, but he isn't considered one of the nation's best college prospects.
Worley, a senior at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C., was named Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Worley has put up Playstation statistics against opposing defenses the past three years, but he's still considered merely a three-star prospect by the nation's four biggest recruiting services: 247sports.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com.
"Justin just doesn't 'wow' you like some other guys have," said 247sports.com national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons, who noted that Worley's high school offense stays in a shotgun spread. "When you line him up next to some of the other elite guys nationally, there are some differences."
Still, as Simmons and others freely admit, Worley's stats have been staggering.
"You can't ignore them," Simmons said.
Worley, who led his team to a 15-0 record and a Class AAAA Division II state championship this season, is one of the most prolific career passers in high school football history despite starting just three seasons. He completed 429 of 590 passes (72.7 percent) as a senior for 5,315 yards, 64 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He threw for 13,385 yards and 157 touchdowns in his career.
Worley - who plans to enroll at UT in January - has a 4.07 grade point average on a 4.0 scale and is a member of Northwestern's Beta Club. He's also an active member of his church, community and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and he's volunteered time to various local charities.
"Justin Worley is an outstanding quarterback," South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association executive director Shell Dula told The Herald in Rock Hill. "He's in the top 1 percent of the players they've ever had there, and that's saying something."
National analysts aren't convinced, though, despite Worley holding offers from Florida, Notre Dame, Florida State, LSU, Stanford, Arizona State, Texas Tech, Kentucky and others.
Rivals ranks Worley as only the nation's No. 30 pro-style quarterback prospect and just the No. 19 overall prospect in South Carolina. Scout considers him the nation's No. 32 quarterback prospect.
"Worley has shown flashes of being one of the top 2011 quarterbacks in the South," said Scout.com South recruiting analyst Chad Simmons. "He has great size that immediately draws attention his way, and he has shown good leadership as well. He spends a lot of time in the shotgun, so there are still questions about him under center.
"He throws with good accuracy typically but needs to work on arm strength, and his release."
ESPN.com thinks more of Worley as a prospect, ranking him the nation's No. 18 quarterback.
"Worley is a pocket passer with very good height and the ability to make all the necessary throws," according to ESPN's scouting report. "He is an accomplished deep ball passer with touch and the ability to drop the ball in over the top of coverage. Worley has adequate bulk at this stage and the frame to grow."
Jacques Smith honored
Defensive end Jacques Smith from Ooltewah was one of four Vols named Thursday to the Freshman All-SEC team, joining offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, wide receiver Justin Hunter and middle linebacker John Propst.
Others considered for the team but not included were quarterback Tyler Bray, safety Brent Brewer, defensive end Corey Miller and offensive linemen James Stone, Zach Fulton and JerQuari Schofield. Bray's omission wasn't surprising, considering that Georgia's Aaron Murray started all season and generally played well.
Contact Wes Rucker at email@example.com or 865-851-9739. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/wesruckerCTFP or Facebook at www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.