Vols adding in-state specialist?

Friday, May 17, 2013
Tiger standout kicker Aaron Medley, along with MCHS head coach Aaron Pitts are both excited about the Vols interest in Medley and the upcoming season. Tribune file photo.

Tennessee fans have come to learn the importance of the kicking game.

Gen. Robert E. Neyland spoke often of special teams, hence Game Maxim No. 6: "Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made."

Back in 2009, a pair of blocked field goals in Tuscaloosa meant the difference in a 12-10 loss to Alabama. The Crimson Tide went on to win the BCS National Championship.

A blocked extra point in the 2010 Music City Bowl allowed North Carolina to tie the Volunteers with no time on the clock in the fourth quarter. Tennessee went on to lose 30-27 in overtime and entered the offseason with a bad taste in its mouth.

Strides are being made to improve the kicking aspect of Big Orange football, and that answer may come from within the state's borders with Marshall County High School's Aaron Medley.

"It's awesome to have a kid like that," Marshall County head coach Aaron Pitts said of the rising senior. "He works hard. He tries to do things the right way. Great work ethic and personality. He's a very coachable kid. You know a lot of kids, when they're that good, they're not coachable, but he's very coachable. He's a competitor. He's a joy to be around."

The Vols already have commitments for the Class of 2014 from in-state prospects running back Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville), safety Todd Kelly Jr. (Knoxville) and wide receiver Vic Wharton (Franklin).

According to ChrisSailerKicking.com, the state of Tennessee has three of the country's top legs with Gary Wunderlich (Memphis University School) at No. 1, Rafael Gagliaone (Baylor School) at No. 4 and Medley at No. 8.

Medley put his best foot forward in front of coaching staffs from Ohio State, Oklahoma and Tennessee in the last few weeks. Vol special teams coordinator Mark Elder was the most recent to venture to Lewisburg, seeing Medley kick on Thursday.

The Tiger is a self-admitted Big Orange fan but no scholarship offer is on the table presently. Tennessee is in a tight spot with specialists on full rides with back-up punter Matt Darr and back-up kicker George Bullock. Returning starter Michael Palardy graduates after the 2013 season. Andrew Gantz enrolls this summer and hopes to earn a scholarship as well.

So, if Tennessee is to offer any kicker or punter a spot in the 2014 class, it will take some maneuvering on the roster.

Medley, who visited Rocky Top this spring to see the Vols practice under first-year head coach Butch Jones, says he would like to verbally commit to a school this summer. Oklahoma pulled the trigger on an offer on May 7.

His coach says the attention Medley is receiving is healthy for the southern middle Tennessee town.

"One thing it does is it shows the other kids that it's possible, but also it provides exposure," said Pitts, who leads the program that produced NFL Draft first-round pick Dont'a Hightower. "When you're in a small town like Lewisburg and there's not a lot of traffic coming through here, it's good when big schools are coming and people are interested in some of our kids.

"We're very excited about it. It's a good thing for the whole community, not just the one kid, it's the whole community."

As a junior at Marshall County, Medley booted true 27 of 31 extra points and 3 of 6 field goals. On kickoffs, 31 of his 47 attempts went for touchbacks.

Medley carries a 3.8 grade point average and has a qualifying ACT score of 23.