Vols Take Title

Tennessee rides a bountiful January to fend off Michigan and Georgia, as well as a hard-charging USC, in the race for the national recruiting championship. The Volunteers and Bulldogs also lead the SEC to the conference recruiting title. The ACC and Pac-10 were second and third, respectively, among conferences.

SEATTLE, Feb. 2 - The day a highly coveted safety out of Miami named Demetrice Morley changed his mind on his homestate school and decided to matriculate some 900 miles away instead was the day that set the stage for the Tennesee Volunteers to claim Scout.com's national championship for recruiting.

The Volunteers were declared the National Recruiting Champions by the Seattle-based online sports network at 6 p.m., Eastern, today.

Tennessee has been the leader almost since the day Scout.com launched its automated team rankings, which are based on rankings, data and evaluation of a team of analysts considered the best in the industry.

Coach Phillip Fulmer's Volunteers beat out four hard-charging schools - Michigan (No. 2), USC (No. 3), Florida State (No. 4), and Georgia (No. 5) - as well as Oklahoma (No. 5), which had been running neck-and-neck with Tennessee for more than a week.

Florida State had the biggest day, landing the nation's No. 1 running back in Antone Smith, its No. 2 defensive tackle in Callahan Bright, and its No. 2 receiver in Fred Rouse. Those signings allowed the Seminoles to surge late to fourth in the team rankings. USC had an even later surge, leapfrogging FSU for third, by snagging Cary Harris, the nation's No. 6 cornerback, after earlier landing the No. 3 linebacker, Brian Cushing.

Ryan Perrilloux
Louisiana State landed the biggest National Letter of Intent Day signing with Ryan Perrilloux, the No. 2 quarterback in the nation, according to Scout.com. Originally committed to Texas, Perrilloux signed with LSU during an early morning press conference in his hometown of Reserve, La. The addition helped LSU, last year's Scout.com national recruiting champion, as of LOI Day, finished No. 20 this year.

Texas, which had counted on Perrilloux, Fred Rouse (No. 2 receiver) and Martellus Bennett (No. 2 tight end), ending up losing all three and finished No. 12 in the Scout.com team rankings.

Morley's signing gave Tennessee its third five-star commitment, after quarterback Jonathan Crompton and running back LaMarcus Coker. The Volunteers then had a tremendous January, during which they landed commitments from defensive end Raymond Henderson, linebacker Rico McCoy, lineman Josh McNeil, safety Adam Myers-White, tackle Chris Scott, receiver Slick Shelley - all U.S. Army All-Americans. The most visible recruiting episode for Tennessee may have been its loss of Scout.com's No. 1 wide receiver, Patrick Turner, to USC; however, the Volunteers recovered by landing Shelly on Monday.

Jonathan Crompton
"Tennessee always has recruited well, but has never been No. 1 in the land," said Jamie Newberg, national recruiting editor for Scout.com. "This is a very balanced class, from top to bottom, and loaded with elite prospects."

Scott Kennedy, Scout.com's South regional editor, said, "The Volunteer Class of 2005 has stars at every position, and that is the key to it being so good. A typical Phil Fulmer class is solid on the line of scrimmage, and the Class of 2005 is no different. Chris Scott of Lovejoy High School in Georgia headlines another stellar group of offensive linemen. There are a lot of weapons on offense, and LaMarcus Coker of Antioch High School in Tennessee may be the biggest weapon of them all. Coker is a home run hitter capable of taking it the distance as well as going between the tackles for the tough yards.

"While we'll truly be able to tell how well this class rates in three or four years, Tennessee certainly signed the raw talent to be able to compete for championships."

The SEC, with Tennessee, Georgia and Florida (No. 10) all finishing among Scout.com top 10 schools, finished as the highest ranking conference in the network's rankings. The ACC and Pac-10 were second and third, respectively.

Kevin Grady
Michigan solidified its No. 2 finish by gaining National Letter of Intent Day signings of James McKinney, a four-star linebacker, and Eugene Germany, a three-star defensive end. Running back Kevin Grady, the No. 5 ranked running back in the country and a five-star performer, according to Scout.com, may be the crowl jewel of the Wolverines' class, however. "The backbone of the Wolverines' class is in the defensive line with commitments of top defensive tackle prospects James McKinney, Marques Slocum and Terrance Taylor," said Chris Pool, Midwest analyst for Scout.com.

Georgia challenged by landing Darius Dewberry, the nation's No. 5 ranked linebacker by Scout.com, on Monday.

"What strikes this class as out of the ordinary for the Bulldogs is how much of it came from out of state," Kennedy said. "Kade Weston (defensive tackle) came from New Jersey, and five-star safety C.J. Byrd is the top player from South Carolina. Jeff Owens out of Plantation, Fla., is an excellent defensive tackle who will team with Weston to form a fearsome pair at defensive tackle. Georgia established themselves as a national recruiting power this season by going out of state to secure their needs, and new defensive coordinator Willie Martinez is going to have a lot of tools to work with."

Many observers believed the Trojans had the wherewithal to charge all the way back up to No. 1. In spite of a good day, the Trojans weren't able to garner enough significant signings to overtake Tennessee. They lost one major battle for the nation's No. 2 safety, Reggie Smith.

A nice consolation is the signing of Scout.com's No. 1 ranked overall prospect, quarterback Mark Sanchez, of Mission Viejo, Calif.

"USC was hoping to sign a No. 1 ranked recruiting class for the third year in a row, but will be hard-pressed to overcome a large 27-man Tennessee signing effort as well as Michigan, which out-recruited the Trojans in the running back and offensive line positions," said Allen Wallace, Scout.com's national recruiting editor. "For the second year in a row, Pete Carroll did not sign a running back, putting pressure on the Trojans to bring in a top-flight ballcarrier next year. But by signing the nation's number one signal-caller in Sanchez, Carroll went far in securing a legacy he has developed so amazingly fast."

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