Sam gets his man

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Duke. Northwestern. Vanderbilt.

When Dan Skipper embarked on an educational tour of 10 schools in 17 days this May, he did so with some of the premier academic institutions in the country coveting his services.

What started in May and ran into June finished with the prospect with a 3.91 grade point average and aspirations of being an engineer making a verbal commitment — Tennessee.

"The big thing is the support that the people have for the football team and the university," Skipper told InsideTennessee. "The alumni base there is absolutely massive and it's nationwide."

Tennessee first started recruiting the Ralston Valley (Colo.) High School offensive tackle "halfway through the spring recruiting period." Tennessee offensive line coach Sam Pittman made calls to Mustang head coach Matt Loyd prior to that in order to get the lowdown on the bookend.

A coaxed trip to Rocky Top and participation in a summer camp were more than enough for Skipper, who also spoke glowingly about Tennessee's facilities.

He chose a collegiate career on The Hill over numerous others, including Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado State, Duke Missouri, Northwestern, Oregon State, Tulsa, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington, Washington State and Wyoming.

A selling point that the Vols and 13 other institutions are selling to recruits all over the country is the opportunity to compete against the best in the Southeastern Conference.

"Playing at the SEC level, it's a great opportunity for me," said Skipper, who was part of an offensive line that paved the way for 2,147 rushing yards in 2011. "I'm looking forward to it a lot. Being a lineman in the SEC, it's the toughest conference in college football for that. I've always worked hard. I've always loved great challenges. This is just another great challenge for me."

Antonio Richardson (74) will have an understudy to work with for the 2013 season in Skipper.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
While at the Vol camp, Skipper said he was sized up at 6-feet-10, 297 pounds and was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 5.2 seconds. However, he did note that his weight has fluctuated a bit and is presently 292.

The three-star prospect doesn't have an exact figure in mind weight-wise for when he does officially strap up as a Vol, preferring to just be "healthy."

"My big thing is just staying healthy," Skipper said. "Weight-wise, it doesn't matter where I'm at. I want to be healthy.

"If they want me heavier or lighter than what I am when I get there then they'll do it. So, I'm not too worried about bulking up. I want to be lean, strong and healthy."

Just this summer he has improved his squat number up to 440 pounds with a power clean of 290.

The Arvada, Colo., native said he is adept at run blocking but becoming more comfortable in passing situations is still a work in progress.

"We run the Wing-T, so our offense is, 'When in doubt, down block' and we get after people," Skipper said. "A lot of down blocking, a lot of pulling and kicking, that sort of thing. We don't throw the ball a whole lot.

"So, that will be a big adjustment — just the amount of passing and pass blocking against some of the best teams in the nation."

Playing time can be a tricky thing for any player going from the prep ranks to Div. I college football. Skipper appears cool with whatever the Vol coaches decide.

"Coach Pittman said it's all in my hands how early I want to play," Skipper said. "Right now I don't have the size and strength to play at the SEC level. I know that, but I'm working my tail off. It's a long road for a lot of offensive linemen. It's very beneficial to redshirt. I'm not opposed to it. But, I want to do what's best for me and what's best for the team. Obviously, (Antonio) 'Tiny' (Richardson) is a great football player."

While in town, FOX Sports Next's 57th-ranked offensive tackle got a chance to check out 103,000-seat Neyland Stadium and envision trotting onto the field with his fellow Volunteers.

"That's sounds amazing. I've never really played in front of that many people before. A big crowd for us is around 4,000," he said.

Although Ralston Valley reached the CHSAA Class 5A state quarterfinals last season, anything short of finishing the task and capturing a championship will not be acceptable this season.

"That's our goal every year; that's what we're expected to do this year," he said. "That's what we're going to do. I mean we ran for 350-something yards in the Grandview game and lost. So, we're there, we just need to do the little things right. The focus all summer has been doing things right and doing them in order."

Skipper has a passion for the diamond as well as the gridiron. He currently has it in his head to stay at Ralston Valley through his entire senior year and playing baseball, although if something drastic happens, he could be in class on The Hill in January.

"As of right now the plan is no," Skipper said of enrolling at UT early. "Credit-wise I can though."

Look for the Centennial State standout to trip back at least once on his official visit, although he hasn't yet set a date for when that will take place.

Tennessee offensive line coach Sam Pittman (pictured) played an intricate role in getting a commitment out of Dan Skipper.

Danny Parker is currently the Associate Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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