Corey Vereen quietly shines

West Orange (Winter Garden, Fla.) coach Chip Petree has the perfect description for defensive lineman Corey Vereen.

"He's a finisher," Petree said. "He's a finisher on the football field and in the classroom.

"Corey is a major part of the turnaround that we have had here at West Orange High School because of his work ethic, his commitment to his team and his commitment to this community."

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior was flying under the radar before having some impressive camp workouts in the summer of 2011. Vereen went on to set a school record with 16 sacks in his junior season, and the hidden gem was a diamond that everyone now wanted.

"His recruiting absolutely exploded during this offseason," Petree said. "By the time he committed to Tennessee, everyone had offered him from both coasts."

Vereen, who committed to the Vols on March 2, could turn out to be the most important piece of Tennessee's 2013 recruiting class. In the SEC, where one can never have too many defensive linemen, Vereen is a versatile talent who knows only one speed.

"Corey doesn't have a second gear at all," Petree said. "He goes from first gear to third gear, and he's the most explosive in-the-box player I've coached in 23 years."

For all the accolades on the football field, Vereen remains a quiet young man who shies away from the attention off it. He is an honors student who plans to graduate next December and to enroll at Tennessee in January 2013.

"Academics are so important to me, and being in a place that I could enjoy football and enjoy the classroom experience is something that Tennessee can provide," Vereen said. "I really felt close to Coach Sal [Sunseri] and Coach [Derek] Dooley, and it was the right decision for me."

Vereen said Florida, FSU, South Florida, Clemson and Georgia Tech stood out to him, as well. Other offers included Louisville, UCF, Duke and Temple.

"It's a great blessing to have so many strong programs interested, but as things started to grow and the phone calls increased, I knew I'd probably make a decision early," Vereen said. "So I went to a lot of junior days and saw the programs I was really interested in, and Tennessee was the best."

Recently, Vereen returned to Knoxville for his spring break and, as expected, he was treated like family.

"It was great. I had the chance to sit in on some team meetings and then watch the practice," Vereen said. "Most important, I had time to talk to the players and understand what it's like to be part of the Volunteer family."

Although the phone calls have died down, Vereen said he still hears from Florida, FSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. However, he is fully committed to Tennessee.

"I'm finished with the recruiting process and looking forward to playing for Coach Dooley at Tennessee," Vereen said.

He will be brought in as a "Jack" linebacker and will play defensive end in some situations, as well.

"It's a perfect fit for me because I can play with my hand in the ground or standing up," Vereen said. "Coach Sal has a tremendous scheme and anyone playing under him is going to be successful."

Petree said the way Vereen has handled his recruitment should be a model for student-athletes everywhere.

"Unfortunately, it's usually the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, so it's great to see a good, humble, loyal young man get these accolades because he deserves them," Petree said. "That being said, for every piece of mail he's received, he read it privately and put it up [in] his locker. He's never put it back in his teammates face, and he's never acted like he was better than anyone else.

"He comes in to work every day; he's one of the first here and he's one of the last to leave. Corey is just the best prospect I've coached. I thank him for what he's done for West Orange, and he has the best parents. Wonderful mother and father that have instilled the old-school values and character that you hope to see out of all young men."

Vereen said it starts at home for him, and as one of the team leaders, he's hoping to make his senior year with West Orange a memorable one.

"My family has a strong influence on my life, and they have always taught me to improve myself every day as a person," Vereen said. "I'm just looking forward to a fun senior year with my teammates, and hopefully we'll continue to improve and win a lot of ballgames."