There wasn't a lot of suspense in the air at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tenn., but there were plenty of smiles. Joined by current Tennessee commit and teammate Ben Bartholomew, MBA offensive tackle Preston Bailey ended his recruitment on Wednesday morning and committed to the Tennessee Volunteers.
The ceremony lacked the drama that has become the norm of announcement ceremonies as Bailey and Bartholomew, dressed in blue blazers and ties, took the understated approach and talked together about their future as teammates.
While Bartholomew has been committed to the Volunteers since last December, he has been quietly urging Bailey to join him for a long time.
"He came to the Florida game with me last year and really enjoyed it," said Bartholomew. "I've been teasing him ever since then to come with me to UT."
While Bartholomew heads to Tennessee as a third generation Vol, Bailey had plenty of motivation as well, listing several reasons for his commitment, "I chose UT because of their great academics, which is something that people don't realize and their engineering department is pretty stout," Bailey said. "They have a great family atmosphere there and I've got a great relationship with the coaches." Finally Bailey added, "and plus there's nothing like playing for your home state."
While the massive offensive tackle has always had Tennessee high on his list, he originally intended to take all of his official visits before he made his decision. Then a preseason knee injury gave him some perspective.
"My knee injury in the preseason made me realize that life is everchanging, and that you can't take anything for granted," Bailey said. "It helped me realize that this is a business in a lot of ways and I needed to go ahead and do what was best for me. I knew that Tennessee was the right fit for me and my family."
At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, Bailey is big enough to play tackle but athletic enough to play guard at the next level. However, when asked which position he would prefer, he takes the service approach, "They're looking at me at either tackle or guard," he said. "But I'm there to serve the school so I will do whatever they need me to do."
Bartholomew, a three-star fullback who doubles at linebacker, echoes the same sentiments.
"I've talked with coach Cutcliffe and the defensive coaches and we haven't decided where I'm going to play," said the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder. "To me, defense is more fun but offense is easier. I'm happy playing either one."
If MBA's opening week is any indication, Tennessee coaches will be happy to have the MBA duo on the field as well. Behind an offensive line anchored by Bailey, MBA racked up 455 yards of rushing, 146 of which came off eight Bartholomew carries.
Head coach Daniel McGugin talked about what Bartholomew and Bailey's commitment to Tennessee meant to his program, "At MBA we strive to be the best at everything we do," he said. "By these two guys committing to an SEC power like Tennessee, they're proving that they can be a part of the best that there is out there in football."
Bailey is the No. 30 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 4 player in the state of Tennessee. Bartholomew is listed as the No. 14 player in the state and No. 4 fullback in the nation.
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