Indiana LB likes UT

High school linebackers who want to play immediately at the college level will have a great opportunity at Tennessee. That's why one prospect attending Wednesday's camp is seriously considering the Volunteers.

Ike Spearman is a muscular 6-2, 211-pound rising senior at Lake Central High in St. John, Indiana. He recorded 135 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception last fall from his weakside linebacker spot, earning recognition as Defensive MVP of his conference.

Having grown up in Big Ten territory, Spearman plans to visit Minnesota and "a couple of other Big Ten schools" later this month. He also is planning to visit UCLA in the weeks ahead.

Spearman also likes the SEC. He says he holds a scholarship offer from Ole Miss and attended a Vanderbilt camp on Sunday before stopping in Knoxville on Wednesday.

"I like the Big Ten and the SEC, definitely," he said. "In the SEC I like the weather and how they play quick. The Big Ten is more about smash-mouth and everything."

Spearman says he holds scholarship offers from Ole Miss, Minnesota and Northern Illinois. The Vols have not offered, he said, "but they haven't had any commitments from linebackers yet, so I think I could be in a good spot."

Like most prospects, Spearman says he's looking for a college that offers a good academic reputation and an opportunity to play right away. He's also looking for coaches who can prepare him for "the next level."

Those factors should favor Tennessee, which is desperate for linebacker help and has a former NFL linebacker, Peter Sirmon, coaching the position.

"I worked with Pete Sirmon," Spearman said. "He's a good guy, and he showed me a lot of things I needed to learn."

Spearman said Tennessee's coaches seem impressed with him, noting: "They like my strength, my ability to hit, my hip movement and my quick feet."

Spearman said he clocked a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash at the UT camp and has a 320-pound best in the bench press.

Tennessee is frightfully thin at linebacker these days. Projected 2011 starters Austin Johnson and Daryl Vereen will be seniors this fall, and injury-prone junior Herman Lathers recently suffered a broken ankle. The only other scholarship 'backers on the post-spring roster are injury-plagued junior Greg King, little-used junior Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, sophomore John Propst and two more sophomores who have scarcely played - Raiques Crump and Robert Nelson.

Derek Spearman, Ike's father, accompanied his son on the trek to Knoxville. He said Tennessee's need at linebacker could be a key factor in his son's decision, noting: "He likes Tennessee a lot. And I tell him it's not just about how much you're attracted to the program; it's about how much the program is attracted to you."

Ike Spearman seems to like everything about Tennessee's program.

"The facilities are really nice," he said. "The coaches work hard, and the new facilities being built are really impressive.... The best thing about the camp was how organized it was and all of the new stuff I learned."

One thing he learned long ago was how to be an aggressive and productive linebacker.

"I like hitting people," he said, "moving around and getting to the ball."

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