Vols discover Weapon of Mass Distruption

Landing a big time, hometown sleeper in the holiday recruiting season was like getting the Home Shopping Network's Night Owl Special for Coach Phillip Fulmer last Friday as he received a commitment from Demarcus Stevens.

Knoxville high schools haven't exactly been a pipeline to Tennessee's football program over the years, but it appears to have produced a keeper in Fulton defensive end/linebacker prospect Stevens.

Sure, it's not a name most UT fans outside the east Tennessee area are likely to recognize, but his talent speaks for itself. Stevens led the Falcons to consecutive Class-3A state title games in which he won defensive player of the game honors both times. This year he not only recorded 11 tackles with two sacks and another two stops for losses, he also caught a pair of touchdown passes at tight end and returned a kickoff for 35 yards.

On the season, he had 150 stops (78 solo) despite the fact teams ran away from his defensive end position even when it meant running at the strength of the defensive formation.

"He's one of those guys the offense is going to worry about all the time," said Fulton head coach Buck Coatney. "A lot of times we'd overload the other side because we knew they'd run away from him. That's definitely an asset."

Although a three-year starter at Fulton, Stevens didn't play much offense until his senior season. He finished the year with 27 catches for 486 yards and 12 touchdowns at tight end and carried the ball 25 times for 179 yards and three touchdowns as a slot-back. Stevens was also called upon to return kicks when the No. 1 man went down with an injury.

"The kid we had who returned kickoffs hurt his shoulder and we put him back there in week seven," said Coatney. "He ran the first one he ever caught back for a touchdown and nobody wanted to kick to him anymore after that."

After motoring 81 yards with the first kickoff of his career, Stevens finished with 196 yards in five returns for an average of nearly 40 yards per attempt.

Because he wasn't involved in the football camp circuit, Stevens kind of got lost in the recruiting game shuffle. Even now that he's committed to Tennessee he remains a non-rated two-star prospect by The Insiders. It's interesting to note that The Insider's No. 2 safety nationally, Kyle Jackson, who recently committed to Florida, is listed at 6-1, 176 with a 40 time of 4.61. Compare that to Stevens who checks in a 6-3, 207, with a time of 4.45.

"He runs a 4.4 forty," said Coatney. "The best we timed him in was 4.41. He's tops in the state in the high hurdles. He's also on our four-by-100 meter and our four-by-200 meter teams which finished second and third in the state. He's got a 32-inch vertical."

With a list of credentials like those Stevens doesn't need much else to be an outstanding prospect, but he has them.

"They compared him to Leonard Little because of his intensity," said Coatney. "He goes nuts out there on the field.

"He benched 255 last spring and that's what UT is excited about because he doesn't lift much having track in the spring. They think he'll really jump up in size and strength when they get him in the weight room."

Outside of Tennessee, Marshall and MTSU were the schools recruiting Stevens the most intensely this fall. How he's managed to be overlooked by both major football programs and recruiting services is a mystery to Coatney.

"I don't know," he said. "I don't understand all that stuff. I do know Tennessee has been looking at him since last year. I think UT kind of kept him a secret."

That's probably the best approach when dealing with a weapon of mass disruption.

Editor's Note: This story was taken from an indepth feature on Demarcus Stevens that will appear in the next issue of Rocky Top News.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories