Posted: 5:31 p.m. Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Brad Shepard
The Tennessee Volunteers are rolling along nicely in the 2014 recruiting class with nine commitments already, and they took a nice first step to outfitting next year's class on Thursday afternoon.
Zach Stewart -- a 6-foot-5, 298-pound two-way lineman who UT is likely recruiting to play offense -- made it official and fulfilled a lifelong dream to play for the Vols. He is expected to play tackle or guard on the next level and is the first 2015 commitment for Butch Jones and UT.
Won MVP award at a recent 5-star National Underclassman Combine at Myrtle Beach, S.C., according to a GoVolsXtra story about him receiving an offer at Junior Day. He also won an MVP award at a NUC linemen combine in Oklahoma as a freshman. UT was the first FBS offer for Stewart, who grew up a fan of the Vols. According to the story, he led Coalfield to a state semifinal appearance while making 117 tackles, 23 for a loss and 14 sacks.
There are a couple of films out there on Stewart -- one on offense and one for defense. He was named the Knoxville News-Sentinel's sophomore of the year this past season. He is receiving a lot of SEC interest at this early juncture, but essentially after Tennessee offered, his recruitment -- for all intents and purposes -- was over. He has visited four times since Feb. 16, and it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before he pledged to the Vols. His primary recruiters were offensive line coach Don Mahoney and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian.
Stewart is one of three Knoxville-area players with offers already in the 2015 class. Linebacker Brant Mitchell of the Webb School in Knoxville received an offer shortly after four-star safety Todd Kelly Jr. -- his teammate who is in the '14 class -- committed to UT. This past weekend, Lenoir City athlete Jaylond Woods, who plays some running back, receiver and safety, was offered by the Vols. UT is a big leader for both, and Woods is actually kin to former Vols commitment and future prospect Camion Patrick, who is spending his first season in JUCO.
Offensive lineman is a major need for the Vols in this class and the future, so having a homegrown player with such a big upside in your backyard is a big deal. It's definitely a quality early pickup, and it's the perfect start to a recruiting class that is nearly two years away from being official.
Welcome home, Mr. Stewart!