Wharton explains why Tennessee

Vic Wharton

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The pressure is off. The destination is known. Vic Wharton is set to be a Tennessee Volunteer.

The Independence (Tenn.) High School athlete became the first Class of 2014 prospect to offer his commitment to the Volunteers, and Wharton seems quite content with his decision after getting the offer on Dec. 21.

"I think it's a big relief because I can really concentrate on football season and not really worry about going on visits and everything and make sure I help my team out so we can get to the state championship next year," he told InsideTennessee.

A phone call to new Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on the afternoon of Christmas Day sealed up matters. As a top target when Jones was at Cincinnati, Wharton knows Jones as well as or better than any prospect on the Orange & White radar.

"Coach Jones, I compare him to coach David Meske at Webb," Wharton said. "Coach Meske, he's the nicest person that I know, and he's enthusiastic about the game of football. I think the fans will love that about (Jones). He's so energetic about who we are and loving the University of Tennessee. I feel like that he's actually the coach who can turn this program around back to where it used to be and get a national championship back to Knoxville."

Wharton has already started building a bond with tight ends coach Mark Elder and his lead recruiter to Rocky Top has been running backs coach Jay Graham.

"Coach Graham is cool too," Wharton said. "He was the first person I told that I was going to commit. He told me, 'Welcome to the family.' He was just as excited as all of them were. He's been recruiting me since he was with coach (Derek) Dooley and all of them."

Wharton became the third player in 10 days to give Jones his word that he'd play his college ball on Rocky Top, joining 2013s Lemond Johnson and Riyahd Jones.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder is likely to be used as a slot receiver in coordinator Mike Bajakian's offense.

"It's a Spread offense and they really go no-huddle and try to wear out that defense," said Wharton, whose skills have been compared to Patriots receiver Wes Welker. "Really the position they want me to play is the slot receiver but they also are going to send me back in motion, get me some of those handoffs and use my speed for that so I can get around the edge. Then, I will return punts and kicks too."

Wharton was born in Kentucky before moving to Knoxville with his family at the age of 3, attending Catholic High School his freshman year before moving to Christ Presbyterian Academy for his sophomore season. At CPA, Wharton also competed in basketball and teamed with top-flight prospect Jalen Lindsey to defeat Mitchell 78-64 in the Class AA state championship.

Then, it was off to play in the Volunteer State's largest classification for 2012 at Independence.

Under coach Kevin Dyson, Independence reached the TSSAA Class 6A state playoffs but was eliminated in the first round by eventual semifinalist Mt. Juliet 52-22, finishing with a record of 6-5.

Dyson, a former Tennessee Titans wide receiver, has known Wharton since he was a baby and was among the first to hear about the pledge.

"He was real excited about it and everything," said Wharton, who was Dyson's ring bearer in his wedding when Wharton was 6 years old.

Dyson decided this month not to return to Independence in favor of posts as assistant principal and athletics director at the new Stewarts Creek High School in nearby Murfreesboro.

As a student-athlete that carries a 3.5 grade point average and has already scored 24 on the ACT, Wharton has a capacity to learn and adapt. That holds true for football as well with his playing quarterback, running back, receiver, safety, cornerback and returnman for the Eagles.

"It helps a lot learning both positions," he said. "If I just know from instincts what the receiver will do or the defensive back will do from doing both in high school. With coach Dyson being my receivers coach and my dad being my defensive backs coach since I was 7 years old, I've had a lot of help in both areas."

Wharton is likely to take his official visits to Cincinnati, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

"I'll still probably take my official visits and probably go visit other schools while I can, but I'm pretty hard on UT right now because I love the coaching staff," he said. "They're the reason Cincinnati was my top school when they were at Cincinnati. It was quite obvious when they went to UT right after coach Jones offered me that I would think about it for a little while but then I was ready to commit after that."

Expect to see the newest commitment at Thompson-Boling Arena for 3-4 basketball games this winter to both help recruit and continue building a relationship with Jones & Co.

Have a look at some of Wharton's highlights from his junior season in the footage below:

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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