The 2014 Tennessee Volunteers recruiting class is something special. The level of talent is impressive, especially when considering that the Vols are coming off a disappointing 5-7 season. There are many standout blue chippers in this class, but to me, the player with the highest ceiling is Josh Malone.

Before I go any further, let me get my admitted bias out of the way. I graduated from both Station Camp High School and the University of Tennessee, so some favoritism is apparent. But it also means that I’ve followed his recruitment closer than most players in the mid-state. Last season, I was assigned by a local newspaper to cover Station Camp’s game against Mount Juliet, in which Malone easily blew past a completely outmatched defense. While contributing as a freelance stringer I saw several of Tennessee’s other top prospects dominate high school defenses, yet none as easily as Malone. But there was a reason for Malone’s sheer dominance during his senior season, his size and skill were already suited for the next level.

The 6-3, 204 pound wide receiver had the raw talent to garner interest early in his high school career. It wasn’t until his junior and senior seasons that Malone truly developed into an improved route runner and pass catcher. We caught a glimpse into his training as Station Camp was featured on the Dick’s Sporting Goods Hell Week special. The Bison coaches pushed Malone as he pushed himself to become one of the top recruits in the nation entering the 2013 high school season. His improvement was showcased on the field as he cruised to a Tennessee Class AAA Mr. Football award and the No. 1 ranking for Tennessee high school prospects.

The next step for Malone is cracking Tennessee’s depth chart as a freshman. Currently, he’s listed behind Alton “Pig” Howard at second-string for the team’s No. 2 wide receiver spot. Regardless of his current standing, Malone will likely see significant playing time as a true freshman. The Vols have a talented sophomore in No. 1 wideout Marquez North and a JUCO All-American transfer in Von Pearson, listed as the starting No. 3 wide receiver. But inexperience aside, Malone may already be the most talented receiver otherwise. If he can make the most of his early opportunities, Malone could be a mainstay in the Tennessee offense by the end of the season and a likely candidate for an freshman All-SEC spot.