"The thing that stands out about LaMarcus is his speed," Antioch head coach Thomas McPhail told Inside Tennessee. "He's the state champion in the 200 meters and he came in second in the 100 with a 10.61 and that was electronically timed. He has been timed in the 40 as low as 4.36."
He also becomes the first player from Antioch to earn a scholarship offer from Tennessee and will likely be the highest rated running back to sign with the Vols from the Metro Nashville area since Keith Davis, of Overton High School, turned the trick 20 years ago.
"It's quite an honor to receive an offer from any institution as established and strong as the UT program and for him it was the opportunity to play close to home and at the highest level possible," said McPhail. "He recognizes the strength of the SEC and was just honored by the fact they were that interested.
"To be honest, I don't think anyone from Antioch has gone to Tennessee except as a walk-on."
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Coker won't be in any kind of walking mode at The Hill where he projects as a quick-strike weapon out of the backfield.
"The one thing for us is that he has the capability to take it the distant on any given play," said McPhail. "He runs the ball exceptionally well on the edges of course and as he's maturing he's poking it up inside pretty good. His sophomore year he rushed for over 1,000 yards and he's the kind of kid that would gain 50 on one play, but then the next time you hand it to him he might dance around a little bit and lose a yard or two. He's got really good vision, exceptional feet and great cutting ability. Right now with his speed I'd say he's definitely more of a slasher. But again, he's getting bigger and stronger every day."
Though he is currently too undersized to take the poundings typically administered by SEC defenses to feature backs, the story will be different by the fall of 2005 or 2006.
"He's a running back and with proper weight training and just natural maturity he'll definitely grow into a feature back," said McPhail. "He's solid, he's got a great physique. He looks the part of a football player. It's like I tell coaches, he's a football player who runs track he's not a track guy who plays football."
While track training has been a boost to Coker's speed it has inhibited his strength training.
"Because of track he's not a 300-pound bench guy," said McPhail. "He does a lot of rep work and things track wise but he's average strength for a high school football player."
In addition to being a big-play threat for Antioch in 2004, Coker will also pull some reps at defensive back as well as return punts and kicks.
LaMarcus Coker gained over 1,300 yards as a junior including 256 yards in just eight carries with three touchdowns in the second game of the season against Beech High School.
"I took him out with about five minutes to go in the second quarter and he didn't play anymore that game," McPhail added. "We ended up winning that game 52-0 and it was a big game for us because it was our first region win of the year, and they had shut us out the year previously. I will definitely say it was the game that jump started our program last year and we were fortunate enough to win our region and we advanced to the playoffs."
Coker broke several long runs last season including one of 93 yards and according to McPhail it just takes one look to know he has outstanding potential.
"I think UT realized his potential and didn't want to let that get away," McPhail said of the Vols decision to offer so early. "Anybody I show his highlight film to becomes automatically interested and that includes Alabama and Auburn and other SEC schools as well. I think he'll be rated pretty high in this next recruiting class."
And he gets Tennessee's recruiting campaign off to a fast start.
Editor's Note: We'll be taking an in-depth look at the year ahead in the upcoming Rocky Top News recruiting issue.