Tennessee's football program got a big boost this week when it was learned that incoming freshman Aaron Sears has met NCAA Clearinghouse standards and will be eligible to play this fall.
The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder from Russellville, Ala., is rated the No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in America by ESPN.com's Tom Lemming. Sears already has been admitted by the university and is due to begin attending class on Thursday.
Aaron Sears, who picked Tennessee over Auburn and Miami last February, is expected to earn immediate playing time this fall.
The good news on Sears leaves just one 2003 signee ineligible (Jonathan Hefney) and one (Anthony McDaniel) in limbo.
Hefney, a cornerback from Rock Hill, S.C., is a player UT knew was an academic risk when it signed him last February. He will attend Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, then re-sign with the Vols next February.
McDaniel, a defensive line prospect from Columbia, S.C., may or may not be eligible, pending an appeal. He is enrolled in summer school classes at UT and projects to be at least a partial qualifier, which would enable him to practice with the Vols -- but not play -- this season.
Preseason drills begin Aug. 5.