Vols Land Nation's No. 8 LB

To lose a prospect is human, to commit an Ayers is divine.

That sums up the feeling in Big Orange Country on the eve of national signing day with word 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker Robert Ayers of Marlboro County High School in Bennettsville, S.C., has chosen the Vols over the Gators and Gamecocks.

Rated the nation's No. 8 linebacker prospect by The Insiders, Ayers projects as an outside LB that could grow into a prototypical rush end in college. An astute student of the game, he is also imbued with strong instincts, 4.5 speed and a powerful frame. As a senior he recorded 112 tackles, 28 stops for minus yardage, including six sacks and three interceptions.

Ayers, who is rated South Carolina's No. 4 prospect behind Leon Hart, Lawrence Timmons and Corey Lambert, joins Jerod Mayo in giving UT a standout pair of linebackers in the Class of 2004.

Ayers had listed Tennessee as a favorite since the onset of the recruiting campaign but Florida and South Carolina closed with a rush in January putting the outcome in doubt. Ultimately, Ayers liked UT's linebacker tradition and what he experienced on his Jan. 16 official visit to Knoxville.

"I loved the unity of the team and how they hung out together," he said about his visit. "It's really a nice and big campus and there's really a lot to do.

"Tennessee is a few players away from being a great team. They have a great program and very good coaches."

Ayers was recruited by Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis, a native of the Palmetto State, who also landed Sinclair Cannon for the 2004 class.

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