Big Orange Country Has West Coast Appeal

Tennessee's reach may at times exceed its grasp when it comes to ranging far for football prospects, but there is a very good reason UT shows well with west coast kids, and why it's worth the effort.

Logistical concerns are a lot to overcome when you have to go so far for recruits. Many prospects are lost somewhere on the five-hour flight over. Others fall victim to jet lag after they return home. However, Tennessee manages to have a respectable success rate on the Pacific shores because of what blue chippers from there experience during the 48 hours they are in K-town.

Call it the fever factor; a level of interest and love of football from a rabid fan base so intense that it is highly contagious. Once a player visits Big Orange Country and catches the fever, the only known cure is to join the crowd. Even those that don't catch the fever come away impressed and word of mouth encourages others to make the long journey for a quick look.

A couple of years ago when Tennessee was trying to dip into the deep well of west coast receivers, they got a visit from Steve Smith and nearly got his signature before the pressures to stay home kept him at Southern Cal.

After his official visit to Knoxville for a Tennessee home game, he was asked how the experience compared to USC? His answer explains the contrast between southern football and Southern Cal football.

"At Southern Cal they treat you like a football star," Smith said. "At Tennessee they treat you like a rock star."

Linebacker/tight end Adam Leonard of Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, Wa., had a similar experience when visited UT in April for the annual Orange and White game."I took a trip to Tennessee to see the spring game," he told The Insiders Allen Wallace. "I was really impressed. It's such a football town…to show that much support for a glorified scrimmage — wow! I just want to play in that type of environment. I signed 30 autographs, and I was just a recruit watching the game down on the field."

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Leonard caught 23 passes for 525 yards and 10 touchdowns his junior season. He recorded 90 tackles at linebacker and was named Metro League Sound Division MVP for the second consecutive year.

"I can read linemen well and I'm pretty strong," he said. "I play well sideline-to-sideline. I need to work on my overall speed and quickness. I want to improve my footwork and getting off blocks better."

Currently rated the No. 9 overall prospect in The Insiders Northwest Hot 100, Leonard is looking at Oregon, Washington State and Washington in addition to Tennessee. Fully qualified academically, he bench presses 325 pounds and boasts a 550-pound squat.

It's far too early and Leonard is too far away to know if he will actually end up at Tennessee, but he has already given convincing testimony as to why the Vols' ventures west are worthwhile.


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