Cherry develops brotherhood with Johnson

Cecil Cherry

Bringing down ball carriers is a talent Cecil Cherry owns. That skill arrives in Knoxville in 2015. InsideTennessee offers a free update on the Scout three-star linebacker.

It’s not uncommon to see committed prospects — particularly those pledged to a school for an extended period of time — get a bit intrigued by other options as the process winds down.

At this point, it appears long-time Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry will defy any such trend.

Rated by Scout as the No. 13 middle linebacker prospect for the 2015 cycle, Cherry gave his word to second-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones over a year ago. As a rising junior in June 2013, Cherry decided he had seen and learned plenty to know he’d end up playing on The Hill.

Since committing to the Big Orange, the Frostproof, Fla., product has been an active recruiter for the Volunteers via social media. While in Beaverton, Ore., for Nike’s crown jewel of camps, The Opening, Cherry found a chance to pitch Tennessee to other prospects face-to-face.

“I’m just talking to Kahlil (McKenzie), I’m focused on him. He’s a D-tackle, I need a big body in front of me. … every (offensive) lineman in the SEC is his size, but he’ll take on four of ‘em at the same time,” the 6-foot-1, 224-pounder said in reference to Scout five-star defensive tackle, Kahlil McKenzie. McKenzie, who Scout lists as the No. 1 prospect overall for 2015, donned an orange and white bucket hat on July 10 and gave his pledge to the Vols.

“He’s a big lineman, but he’s physical and he’s got a high motor. I need an engine like that in front of me … I need to be surrounded by good players to help me develop my game and develop their game and help UT win and bring back a national championship.”

During his time at The Opening, the Scout three-star has also spent time with fellow Tennessee commit and rising senior Preston Williams.

“Shoot, he’ll come sit on my bed and everything and talk," Cherry said of five-star wide receiver Williams. "We just talk about how coach Jones loves both of us."

Cherry, though less lauded than five-stars McKenzie and Williams, has consistently performed well on the camp circuit. The Sunshine State standout, a member of Team Alpha Pro at The Opening, made his way to Nike’s culminating event after an MVP performance at Orlando’s Nike Football Training Camp in March.

A.J. Johnson.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)

Competing against 162 of the nation’s best prospects is something Cherry was excited about during his time on the Nike campus.

“It makes you get better and compete and it’s fun,” Cherry said. “We just came out here to compete and get better.”

As a middle linebacker, Cherry might remind a lot of Tennessee fans of senior A.J. Johnson. Scout national analyst, Jamie Newberg described Cherry as a “tough, hard-nosed and physical linebacker that is a standout between the tackles,” which are qualities commonly attributed Johnson.

Though Johnson, an All-SEC performer, brings a bit more size to the table at 6-foot-3, 233-pounds, both players are well known for their acuity near the line of scrimmage.

While Johnson and Cherry will never take the field together in Knoxville, the two have forged a valuable friendship.

“A.J. is like my brother. … he’s treated me like a little brother,” the Scout three-star said of the Vols’ tackling machine.

“But at the same time, he’s teaching me what I have to learn when I get to Tennessee. We talked about football, we talked about life, how to handle fans and everything.”

Cherry plans to make at least a few visits to Knoxville this fall for games. He has not decided if he will take official visits anywhere else.

According to the Vols commit, teams are still “coming hard” after his talents, but reaffirms that he is “with Tennessee all the way.”

InsideTennessee recruiting analyst Danny Parker contributed to this report.

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