One of the top prospects in the state of Tennessee has committed to stay close to home and play football for the University of Memphis. Lonnie Ballentine, a huge 6-foot-3, 195-pound cornerback has been a star at nearly every camp or combine he has attended. Perhaps the only reason his name is still under the radar is that he's only heading into his junior season.
One of the top performers at the NUC Southeast Ultimate 100 Combine, Ballentine has rare athleticism for a player of his size. He has also impressed coaches at the camps of Louisville, Tennessee, LSU and others. Fortunately for Memphis, the big athlete wants to stay home.
"I committed yesterday," Ballentine said. "I committed to Memphis because of the academics and I just like it a lot and felt like it was home. I just talked to the coaches and I've seen all the other places and it looked like I have a chance of playing early at Memphis."
Only a rising junior, Ballentine has plans on playing even earlier than anyone would expect.
"I'm coming out of school this year," he said. "I'm graduating as a junior. I felt like there wasn't a reason for another year of high school."
Though there is still some work to be done for the youngster from Memphis (Tenn.) Southwind to secure that early graduation, he is determined to make it happen. If he is, Memphis will get instant help from the uniquely big and athletic prospect that was clocked at a sub-4.4 40 time at Memphis' camp and has consistently run in the 4.4 and 4.5 range on other campuses.
Those performances have garnered Ballentine plenty of interest from other schools and plenty of options beyond the hometown Tigers.
"I'm getting interest from Tennessee, Louisville, Tennessee State, LSU, Murray State and Arkansas State," he said. "Louisville offered, Murray State offered, Tennessee offered, LSU offered. They were verbal offers. I went to all of those camps this summer."
With the interest that he has gained from some other major programs Ballentine doesn't plan on totally closing the door on the process but hopes to take a look at some other options this fall.
"I don't know yet where I'm going to take my visits to but I know I'm still going to take them and go through the recruiting process," he said.
Ballentine is a track star in high school, stars on the basketball court and in his first year at Southwind High School after transferring from Hamilton, looks as though he will get plenty of opportunity to star on the football field. He will be playing cornerback, wide receiver and punt returner.
"I think I get out of my breaks well and drive," he said. "I have great cover skills. I'm not scared to come up and tackle. I think I'm a complete cornerback."