March 6, 2013

Malone talks hard work, 'different vibe' of Vols

MURFREESBORO --- The workout, a rigorous hour-long process on the indoor turf at Oakland High School, done, Josh Malone grabs a football and commands the quarterbacks to run a couple of fly patterns.

Twice Malone hits the players in stride some 30 to 40 yards downfield. But he is one of the state of Tennessee's top overall prospects for his receiving skills, which have been on full display this morning during a Playmakers Academy training session.

Mostly Malone works and smiles, snaring passes and chatting up friend Rashaan Gaulden. The drills, all the hard work? That's the easy part for the explosive wideout who just last week added an LSU offer to a list now crowding 30.

"Man, when you can get out here just throwing and working out, it's like an escape where you can just relax and have fun and play ball," said the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder. "The more relaxed you are, the more fluid stuff is going to be.

"It's just a relief to come out here and have fun. I'm just trying to improve my route-running. The better my routes, the harder it is to cover. And I'm just trying to add a little burst coming out of my routes and stuff."

Though Malone long burst onto the recruiting scene a year ago when he began to light up the spring and summer camps circuit, the Station Camp High School standout doesn't take any of it for granted.

"I still get happy about each one. That's just another school that likes me and wants me," said Malone of the offers. "It feels good to have that many people just wanting you to come to their school and play and put on their colors. It's a great opportunity.

"And having these programs are good because it's just a lot of resources and every day we get to work and just get better every day. IFM (Nashville-based In Full Motion), Playmakers Academy does a lot for us. Give us ACT prep, classes, tutoring, they help us on the field and off the field."

Tennessee has helped itself in Malone's recruiting battle during the transition into the Butch Jones era. Malone has felt an open line of communication with most all of the Vols' coaches, including Jones and Nashville-area ace recruiter Tommy Thigpen.

"Really, it's all of them. Coach Thigpen, Coach Jones, I basically talk to all of them every time I call one of them. It's definitely a different vibe up there," Malone, who indicated he expected to check out one of the Vols' spring practices, explained. "It's just the way all the players are moving around. They've got a little swagger going on. It's definitely a different atmosphere."

How long did it take Malone to pick up on that different mentality?

"Right when you walked into the facility," he said. "You walked in and see everybody around, right when you walked in it was just a whole entirely different energy. Right when you walk onto that 100-yard indoor field, you just feel an entirely different energy than before."

A different level of national attention won't alter Malone's approach this summer. Instead, the standout wide receiver is going to battle the best of the best in several scheduled camp appearances.

"I'm doing the Nike camp in Atlanta and I'm doing the Rivals/Under Armour camp and I'm doing a Football University camp this summer," Malone said. "And I'll do the Playmakers Academy camp (in Nashville in early May)."

Otherwise, Malone will continue to work. He's adding muscle to his frame and has a target weight for college that he believes can make him an even more difficult coverage assignment.

"I'm a legit 190, and it's going to help me out a lot more because I can use my weight more and be more physical coming off the ball," he said. "I can use my weight more and get leverage. It feels good at this weight. Hopefully I can pick up more when I get to college and play at around 200."

Malone is a four-star standout by Rivals.com, one of the top players in the state of Tennessee and expected to be among the top wide receivers nationally in the 2014 class.

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