By Alex Norman

National Signing Day is a big deal across the nation, and it was in Knoxville as well.   Locally, one of the busiest stops was just off of Dutchtown Road, at Christian Academy of Knoxville.  On Wednesday, February 6th, nine C.A.K. Warriors (boys and girls) signed National Letters of Intent in a variety of sports.

But football is where we pick up this story.

Davis Howell and Corey Rathbone, two key pieces to the Warriors two state championship teams, will play at the next level. Howell, the son of WBIR-TV Chief Meteorologist Todd Howell, will head to UT-Chattanooga.  Howell holds the national record for a high school football player with 358 receptions, so that selection could set the Mocs up for future success in the passing game.

Rathbone is known for his talents running the football, and will play at Centre College.

The moves that have received the most attention involve the school less than ten miles to the East.  Wide receiver Josh Smith, offensive lineman Brett Kendrick, and quarterback Charlie High are each staying close to home, and will head to the University of Tennessee.

“The stress is relieved, that’s for sure,” said Smith. “This whole process has been pretty exciting, but it has been long. I’m just ready to get it over with and I’m just ready to be a Vol, for sure.  I’ve been committed for a while so I feel like I am a part of it, but not at the same time. I’m just ready to get there.”

Smith committed to the Vols last June.

“He is a very explosive player with great ball skills,” said C.A.K. head coach Rusty Bradley.  “He’s a great route runner that understands all of the details of being a good receiver.”

In a release from the University of Tennessee, new Vols wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni also had high praise for Smith. “Josh understands what it means to be a Vol growing up in Knoxville.  We are excited about his potential. He is a fast and explosive player who understands the game.”

Smith, a three-star prospect according to 247Sports, missed about half of his senior season with a broken collarbone, but still caught 66 passes for 1176 yards and 15 touchdowns.  He’ll join four-star prospects Paul Harris, Ryan Jenkins and MarQuez North, in what has become a young but talented wide receiving core at Tennessee.  Remember, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson both left UT for the NFL draft, so playing time is available right away.

As for Kendrick, at 6-6, 312 pounds, he is only going to get bigger and quicker when arriving on campus. A three-star prospect according to 247Sports, Kendrick could fit in quite nicely, especially in 2014 when Tennessee will be replacing a significant portion of their offensive line.

“He is incredibly athletic for a big guy,” said Bradley.  “He bends well and has great feet, and is great in pass protection.” Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney, in a release from UT added, “Brett has great size and is very athletic up front. He can play both tackle and guard and possesses tremendous toughness.”

Kendrick, like Smith committed to the Vols last June.  That was when Derek Dooley was the head coach.  When Butch Jones was hired, there wasn’t much wavering on Kendrick’s part.

“I ended up going to a few other places but I wasn’t really worried,” said Kendrick. “I knew we were going to get a good guy and as long as he kept me I was all Vol.”

CAK quarterback Charlie High finished a storied high school career in style, with 59 touchdown passes and more than 5158 yards through the air during his senior season.  He is a two-time Mr. Football Award winner in the state, and holds numerous state and national passing records.

“He is incredibly accurate and has a quick release,” said Bradley. “His knowledge of the passing game is well ahead of what a high school senior should have.”

But despite the stats and the recommendations, a major college scholarship offer never happened for the undersized High.  Listed at 6’0,” college coaches weren’t willing to take a chance. High had a scholarship offer from Tennessee Tech among others, but chose instead to become a preferred walk-on at Tennessee.

The road to earning a scholarship for High with the Vols could be a difficult one.  Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman are already at the top of the depth chart, and Tennessee brings in highly regarded Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs in the Class of 2013 as well.

In any event, three Warriors will soon be Vols… and it’ll be an easy drive for their families to Neyland Stadium.