'Whole 'nother level'

One of The South's top defensive line prospects arrived in Knoxville for Saturday's Tennessee Football Junior Day with an open mind. He left with a blown mind.

Martin Aiken, a 6-3, 240-pounder from Bamberg (S.C.) Ehrhardt High School, said his tour of Tennessee's facilities was a far different experience than his earlier tour of South Carolina's.

"I can't even compare them to Tennessee because it's like a whole 'nother level here from there," he said. "They're both D-1 but you look at it and it's like, man, this school is on another level.

"For one thing, they've got a lot more things for their players than South Carolina does. That's one thing that's always going to stand out about this school ... the size."

Aiken already holds 20 scholarship offers, so the Big Orange has plenty of competition for his services. He insists he has an open mind but conceded that Saturday's visit - his first to Knoxville - helped the Vols' cause considerably.

"This most definitely put them on the charts because at first I didn't know anything about them," he said. "It really helped them out a lot."

After touring Neyland Stadium, the indoor practice facility and the weight room, Aiken admitted that he had no idea Tennessee's program would be so high-tech.

"No, I didn't," he said. "The thoughts that I did have were nowhere near what I saw when I got here. At first, I didn't even think they were going to have two locker rooms."

With 102,455 seats, Neyland Stadium is one of the largest in America. Aiken seemed a tad awed by its enormity.

"I liked it, man," he said. "It's one of the biggest stadiums I ever walked into."

Asked the size of his high school stadium, Aiken grinned and replied, "Small. We're a 1-A school, so it doesn't hold many."

When asked to pinpoint the highlight of his visit, the young lineman replied: "Just the whole experience itself. I was just excited about it from the start, to know I was on my way up here."

Rated a 3-star prospect by Scout.com, Aiken already has offers from Southern Cal, Michigan, South Carolina, Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Wake Forest, Duke, East Carolina, Colorado, Florida Atlantic, Illinois and Tulane.

Asked if any schools stand out at this point, Aiken shook his head.

"I'm trying to stay open to everybody," he said, "give everybody a chance to recruit me fairly."


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