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December 3, 2013
Five-star Malone makes the call: Tennessee
GALLATIN, Tenn. -- It wasn't until a family sit-down at his home near Nashville on Tuesday that Josh Malone finally felt comfortable with his college decision. After months of deliberation and official visits to Tennessee, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Florida State, the five-star wide receiver made the choice that he said felt right for him.
"I chose Tennessee because I felt like I had a better opportunity there," the nation's No. 20 overall player said. "I felt very comfortable there on my visits, and they really came after me hard and showed me that I was a priority for them."
Malone becomes the Volunteers 33rd commitment in the class of 2014 and the second in-star five-star headed to Knoxville, joining Jalen Hurd.
It was just about four months ago that it looked like Tennessee was out of the running for Malone, who focused his attention on schools around the country. But a strong push from first-year head coach Butch Jones got the Vols back in the mix and a solid relationship helped seal the deal.
"Really, Coach Jones was the difference for me," Malone said. "He made me a priority and I respected that, and he really earned my respect and my trust. I really enjoy being around Coach Jones, Coach Azzanni and Coach Thigpen and really all the offensive coaches at Tennessee."
Following an official visit to Clemson on Nov. 23, Malone seemed to have the Tigers out in front. But a visit from Jones and the entire Volunteers offensive staff, who arrived at Malone's house in a caravan and with a police escort, shifted the tide in the favor of Tennessee.
"It really grabbed my attention," Malone said. "The whole thing was that big of a deal but the main thing was the dedication shown by the coaches. It really grabs your attention because you don't see 12 cars in your driveway pull up at the same time. It was kind of crazy."
One of the biggest question marks for Malone during the process was the Vols quarterback situation. This year three different players started at the position, including true freshman Joshua Dobbs. After getting a long look at the Tennessee quarterbacks, Malone said his questions have been answered.
"They've got a couple of guys pushing to be the main guy," Malone said of Dobbs, Riley Ferguson and Justin Worley. "I've seen lots of film on all the guys and I really feel that they're talented and I'm confident going into that situation."
Right now the plan is for Malone to be on the field early and often in 2014.
"I see myself fitting in there well," he said. "They want me to be the X-receiver and have a big impact as a freshman and accomplish big things, they really want to feature me on offense, and that's exciting."
While many might think the Vols were the choice because of proximity, Malone said it's an added plus but wasn't the ultimate factor.
"It's a good bonus, but it really wasn't that big of a deal to me," Malone said. "It will have its benefits, though."
"It feels good to be part of a top class like this," he said. "You know a lot of other good players are coming in with you. It helps us coming in ready to compete and set big goals."
With his commitment in the books, Malone said he plans on leaving the rest of the recruiting to the Vols staff while he prepares to play in the Army All-American Game and then enroll early in Knoxville next month.
"I feel like taking a break from recruiting after all this," he said. "I think I'll leave that up to the coaches because they've done a pretty good job so far."
Woody Wommack is a Southeast Region football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.