Wesley Horky will be easy to root for

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Updated: January 28, 2014

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It’s hard not to like Wesley Horky. It will be even harder not to root for him.

Horky, Tennessee’s latest commitment, is different from the other prospects that recruiting fans are well informed of. Horky isn’t a blue-chip prospect. He’s not even been offered a scholarship by the Vols. Still, he’ll attend UT as an invited walk-on in 2014 even though some prospects would consider that insulting.

Horky we’ll get the gear. He’ll get to say he’s actually on the team. However, he’ll also have to pay his own tuition and hope he’s placed on scholarship one day. If Horky can become UT’s long snapper, the Vols will surely place him on scholarship. That will be at least a year before he’ll get the full ride that his fellow commitments have been awarded.

In terms of accuracy and ball velocity, Horky will likely be the best long snapper on UT’s team as soon as he arrives on campus. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the Vols’ starting quarterback immediately. The 6-foot-2 Horky weighs just 210 pounds. He’ll need to add a considerable amount of weight to play on the line in the SEC.

The Vols could choose to use a spread formation on punts with Horky so he won’t have a defensive lineman lined up on top of him. Still, 210 pounds is, well, 210 pounds. There’s no guarantee Horky will ever secure a starting job or a scholarship because of his size.

No matter. Horky was determined to be a Vol. He decided as much after taking his official visit to Tennessee last weekend.

“I grew up a Vol fan and ever since I went on my official just going there it blew me away and I’ve been thinking constantly and I’m excited and my family excited,” Horky told Volquest.com.

Horky could have held out and perhaps received a full scholarship offer from another school. After all, he’s considered the top long snapper in the nation by a number of recruiting services. Yet, Horky was determined to be a Vol.

Think any prospect would have made that choice if Derek Dooley was still the head coach? For in-state prospects, UT’s football program is once again something special under second-year head coach Butch Jones. There’s excitement, enthusiasm and a responsibility to help rebuild a once-proud program that has fallen on historically hard times.

Horky’s inclusion sends a message to high school coaches: “In-state prospects are important to UT”. Of all the accomplishments that Jones has achieved in his short time at UT, winning over the state is the most impressive. UT has secured most of the top in-state prospects it targeted for the 2014 class.

It’s been over three decades since high school prospects in Tennessee felt they were top priorities for UT’s football program. Despite all his success, Phillip Fulmer had the reputation for overlooking in-state prospects, especially in Memphis. Don’t blame Fulmer. He knew he had to recruit regionally and nationally to keep the Vols in contention for SEC titles. Still, egos across the state were bruised.

Fulmer’s predecessor, Lane Kiffin, didn’t exactly make in-state prospects feel welcome. Kiffin also was all about recruiting nationally. That was his history. That was his plan. Plus, Kiffin was a salesman making a pitch. Passion about in-state football? That wasn’t him.

As for UT’s next coach after Kiffin? Well, Tennessee high school coaches were lucky to meet Derek Dooley.

Fulmer deserves a pass for not making in-state prospects more of a priority. There weren’t many in-state prospects that could make the Vols contenders. Kiffin should get a pass as well. He was used to recruiting nationally so he was simply playing to his strengths. As for Dooley, well, been there.

In little more than a year Jones has made Tennessee football (high school and college) something to take pride in. It’s good timing. There’s more talent in Tennessee than ever before and it only looks to grow in the future. High school coaches will take notice of Jones’ approach.

Wesley Horky is an example of that in-state pride that has been missing for so long. Sure, Horky will have to only pay in-state tuition. Perhaps, he’ll have the Hope Scholarship to help out. He’ll also have a short drive from his home to UT’s campus.

However, it was pride in UT’s program that convinced Horky to turn down other potential scholarship offers all too easy. Credit Jones and his staff for that.

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