February 16, 2012

Talented Toney talks offers, Vols

These days the scholarship offers are rolling in about as rapidly as Huntsville, Ala., linebacker Cameron Toney racked up tackles during his 2011 breakout season.

Auburn, Purdue and Tennessee are among Toney's early offer list, which ballooned by five last weekend.

Fat chance the colleges could remotely keep pace with the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder had he not torn the labrum in his right shoulder in just the second game last season. Not that the relentless Toney was denied; he was barely even slowed in amassing 120 tackles, seven sacks, three interceptions and three pass break-ups from his middle linebacker position as Huntsville High School advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.


"We're tight. Our relationship is not just all about football. Tennessee is a family football thing and I like that." - Cameron Toney on new UT assistant Derrick Ansley



Nonetheless, Toney endured his shoulder dislocating each game the remainder of the season until surgery to repair the injury in November.

"I'm doing a lot better. It would be sore, because every game, I'm not going to lie to you, my arm came out of socket," said Toney, who as a sophomore missed three games with an ankle injury but still tallied 90 tackles. "I told coach, 'No, I've got to put my team on my back and play through it.' That's just how much I love football. But I couldn't give up football. It came out one game three times, that was the last game of the season against Mountain Brook, the No. 1 team. But I said 'I can't go to the sidelines.' I didn't want to tell my coach; I mean, it was the second round of the playoffs. I just played through it. I think I ended up with 10 or 12 tackles that game."

Such is the foundation of Toney's football love, a sport he's played since age 7 and has long dreamed about, he said, of playing on the collegiate level. He's already very familiar with new Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, and Toney praised his relationship with the Vols' up-and-coming new defensive assistant, Derrick Ansley.

"I talked to coach Ansley. He's the one recruiting me. I also talked to coach Sal, he's the one who gave me the offer. Me and coach Sal have always had a great connection," said Toney.

Ansley already has emerged as a savvy recruiter for the Vols, keeping in regular contact with his targets and Toney is no different. What the talented linebacker appreciates is the non-football communication he has with Ansley.

"He loves me, likes me the way I play on the field. Me and (Ansley's) connection is great," Toney said. "He has me call him twice a week. We're tight. Our relationship is not just all about football. Tennessee is a family football thing and I like that."

Toney likes it enough, in fact, that he is planning to be in Knoxville on March 3 for one of the Vols' junior days. He expects to take in Auburn's junior day on Feb. 25.

Ansley's current defense in high school runs both some 3-4 and 4-3 sets, and he feels like he's a natural at the interior linebacker positions.

"The inside position, middle linebacker, is the eye of the defense and mainly the quarterback, the leader of the defense," Toney said. "I like standing up on my feet and reading plays easily. Just for me, it's a lot easier to read and see what's going on. I like it. I've always been playing middle linebacker since middle school."

Though Toney will be limited in contact this spring, he is working hard in his rehab process and said he feels he has made much progress in the past three months.

He said that while he didn't exactly always root for Alabama growing up, he does like Nick Saban and his program. However, Toney said, that will not

"I wasn't really any school's fan. The past four or five years I've been with Alabama because of Nick Saban, but that isn't going to stop me from looking at other schools."

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