One week after this year's national signing day, the Vols got a commitment from LaMarcus Coker, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound tailback from Antioch with breakaway 4.4 speed. Possessing the type of open field ability that distinguished Charlie Garner's highly successful two-year stint at UT, Coker rushed for 1,293 yards and 14 touchdowns in 189 carries as a junior and has clocked 10.61 in the 100 meters while winning the state title as a sophomore.
"LaMarcus is a very exciting back with great vision and God-given speed," said Antioch head Coach Thomas McPhail. "He has the potential to take it the distance on every play. LaMarcus could put on more weight because he is still growing in that respect."
Coker is expected to grow into a feature back capable of hitting it hard between the tackles or bouncing it to the outside. Once he gets past the first wave he's hard to handle with an assortment of juke moves and stutter cuts that leave would-be tacklers grasping for air.
Presumably Coker would be competing for playing time behind another homegrown running back in Gerald Riggs Jr. — a former high school all-American from Chattanooga Red Bank who is past due for a breakout performance. Injuries and academics have cost Riggs opportunities to establish himself as the starter so this fall figures to be critical to his football future.
The son of former NFL stalwart Gerald Riggs Sr., the younger Riggs needs to put himself into the professional football picture with a strong finish in college. That motivation combined with outstanding talent should accelerate his progress this fall if he can avoid the same injury bug that cost him most of UT's recently completed spring practice. If Riggs is plagued by health concerns early this fall, a redshirt campaign might be a viable option since it would give him two full seasons as the team's veteran running back.
Riggs might be the best running back prospect Tennessee has produced in a decade or better while Coker projects as one of the nation's best, but they are not the only in-state players that can roll with the rock.
One top tailback the Vols have their eye on is Knoxville Austin-East's Albert Harris, 5-10, 190, with 4.4 speed. He led the state in rushing as a junior with 2,250 yards and 31 touchdowns. Harris, who can also play corner at the next level, is getting a lot of attention after last year's performance in which he was named a Class 3A Mr. Football finalists in the state.
West Tennessee has a superb tailback/linebacker candidate in Todd Cox, 6-1, 190, with 4.6 speed. As a junior at Harding Academy in Memphis, he picked up 950 yards in only 80 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. Despite he's awesome average of nearly 12 yards a carry and excellent hands, Cox might project as a linebacker in college given his great instincts and physical play. Either way, he has no shortage of scholarship offers including one from UT.
Falling into the big things come in small packages category is Cedric Wilkerson of Northwest High in Clarksville. Weighing 185 pounds on a power packed 5-foot-5 frame, Wilkerson rushed for 2,228 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior tailback. He played the corner on defense and recorded 68 tackles with four interceptions. He is fully qualified on his ACT and sports a 3.5 GPA. At one combine Wilkerson posted 21 reps of 185 pounds in the bench press and had 300-pound linemen shaking their heads in disbelief.
If Tennessee's running game is become money again there will be plenty of Volunteers to tote the note.