The Wharton name carries a lot of weight around Knoxville, thanks to Brandon brandishing a 3-point shooting trigger finger on the hardwood during the Tennessee Volunteers basketball teams of the late 1990s.
Now, there will be another Wharton -- from the same family -- suiting up for new Vols head coach Butch Jones on the gridiron. Tennessee got its first commitment of the 2014 recruiting class Tuesday when in-state athlete Vic Wharton announced via Twitter that he'd committed to UT.
The 6-foot, 175-pound athlete -- who is Brandon's nephew -- chose Tennessee over early offers from Cincinnati, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette, Ole Miss, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. Notre Dame, South Carolina and Georgia had been expressing interest recently.
It's not certain what position he'll play under the new staff at UT. He ran a blazing fast 4.41 40-yard dash at a recent camp at Cincinnati when Jones was the coach there. Though many schools are recruiting him to play cornerback, Wharton recently told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan that Jones and his staff were talking to him about playing slot receiver and returning kicks and punts.
Wharton was a star athlete at Knoxville Catholic and originally hails from Knoxville. He transferred to Christ Presbyterian Academy outside of Nashville before transferring again to Independence High. According to MaxPreps, Wharton had a very successful do-it-all season this past year at Independence, finishing with 18 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries on defense; as well as 118 passing yards, 627 rushing yards [7.4 ypc], 297 receiving yards, 593 kick/punt return yards and 13 total touchdowns. Here's some great film from his junior season where you can really see his speed [some of it against my beloved Lincoln County Falcons].
Wharton is big buddies with current Vols dynamo Devrin Young, and his commitment is thought to positively affect Tennessee's in-state recruiting for the upcoming season. Derek Dooley summarily failed in that area during his three-year tenure at UT as many of the state's top prospects looked elsewhere. However, Wharton and other prospects have discussed playing collegiately together.
Tennessee legacy Todd Kelly Jr. [who has a sister who is an Alabama cheerleader], four-star safety Rashaan Gaulden, four-star wide receiver Josh Malone and Wharton have all discussed playing together according to this Rivals.com article. Those guys also have a relationship with Eric Berry's little brothers.
But whether there is a domino effect or not for the Vols, Wharton's commitment stands on its own as a solid -- if not spectacular -- beginning to Jones' first full class at UT. The speedy athlete was being recruited at UT by Jay Graham and at Cincinnati by Mark Elder. The Vols hadn't offered under the old regime, but when Jones came on board, he made it clear to Wharton that the offer he held at Cincinnati was good for Tennessee, as well.
Make no mistake, Wharton is the type of kid who can build this class and go a long way in helping Jones patch up some of the broken relationships with in-state players that Dooley and his staff cultivated. We're talking about a player who is very personable and talented who has a lot of friends in Knoxville where he grew up and Nashville where he currently plays. He's the perfect start to a very important class for UT.
Wharton is rated a four-star cornerback by Rivals and a three-star athlete by 247Sports.