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April 20, 2006

Vols turning inward

Those with loyalty to Rocky Top have shown cause for things to look promising in Knoxville.

Tennessee has used lifelong ties to its football program to get off to a hot recruiting start with regards to the class of 2007. UT could use such connections to have even more success in the coming months.

The Vols' current commit list of four consists of two wide receivers, one athlete that could play offense or defense and one talented two-way lineman. Two of the prospects are from the Knoxville area, one is from the Nashville area and the out-of-stater is from Michigan.

The Knoxville-area prospects are athlete Anthony Anderson and wide receiver Tyler Maples. Both grew up dreaming of playing for Tennessee. Anderson played a number of positions for Austin-East High and likely projects as a defensive back because of his excellent ability to break on the football. Maples plays wide receiver for local power Maryville High, is very shifty and has good hands.

The in-state commit that could have the highest rating is wide receiver Todd Campbell from Franklin, a suburb of Nashville. Campbell is a gamebreaker for his high school team, has good size, speed and confidence. He also has long arms good hands.


Campbell was courted by a number of Southeastern Conference schools, including Alabama and South Carolina, before deciding on the Vols a couple of weeks ago.

Campbell was perhaps more of a lock for Tennessee than most thought. His godfather is former Vols receiver Joey Kent.

Like the three in-state prospects, two-way line prospect Darris Sawtelle of Birmingham, Mich., grew up with strong connections to Tennessee. Sawtelle's grandfather, Darris McCord, played for the Volunteers.


Sawtelle could play offensive or defensive line and is a highly-regarded player in Michigan. The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder held scholarship offers from Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska, among others, when he committed to the Vols.

The courting of in-state players and out-of-staters with connections to the program may not be over - several other targets have UT connections.

Another out-of-state prospect, Atlanta cornerback Eric Berry, has family ties to the Tennessee program. His father, James Berry was a captain for the Volunteeers during the 1981 season. He was a teammate of current Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis. Vols head coach Phillip Fulmer was an assistant coach on the UT staff in 1981.

The younger Berry, a Rivals.com Junior All-American and one of the top prospects at his position in the country, has a bevy of scholarship offers, but it would not be a surprise to see the Vols in this one until the end.

Huntingdon (Tenn.) linebacker Chris Donald has no family connection to UT to speak of, but he's an in-state prospect that has the Vols high on his list. He's one of the top linebacker prospects in the Southeast and it would be an upset to see him end up anywhere but Knoxville.

There is talk that Washington (D.C.) defensive tackle Marvin Austin will be the nation's top prospect at his position when the Rivals.com rankings are released in late May/early June. Austin is friends with Tennessee linebacker Rico McCoy, who also hails from the nation's capitol.

Even as things begin to shape up, there are a couple of points of concern locally.

After losing Brandon Warren to Florida State last year, the Vols will attempt to prevent another Alcoa High defensive end from leaving. Rae Sykes currently favors LSU, but one could expect the Vols to be able to get back in it and become a factor.

Harrison Smith from Knoxville Catholic is a versatile athlete that Tennessee would love to have. He seems to be somewhat open about his choices, but there is talk that Notre Dame could be a big factor if it chooses to be. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder can play a number of positions at the next level and is a prospect that the Vols don't need to let get out of town.

Nashville athlete Golden Tate appears to be more interested in heading out-of-state than over to Knoxville. As things stand now, the Volunteers face an uphill battle for Tate's services. But it's never too late to get back in it on an in-state prospect if you are Tennessee.

Even if a few of the bigger names leave the state, it is still a pretty deep year in Tennessee. There is a nice amount of SEC-level football talent, and that is good news if you are a fan of the Vols.

There is a sign in the locker room area of Neyland Stadium that says, "I will give my all for Tennessee today." The sign isn't referencing the university, but the entire state. This creed perhaps resonates better with those who were born, raised and played high school football under the stars and circle of the Tennessee flag or those who have some longstanding tie to the program that plays its home games on the muddy banks of the Tennessee River.

Those facts have to give most UT fans confidence that the current staff can use those who have always been loyal to Rocky Top to rebuild a championship foundation.



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