Young Lion Poised For Strong Finish

Five-star linebacker prospect Todd Cox entered two-a-day practices last week at Harding Academy in Memphis a bigger, faster player than the one who finished the 2003 season.

That's saying a lot considering the success Cox enjoyed as a junior when he rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 80 carries as a tailback. In case you don't have a calculator handy, that comes out to an astonishing average of 11.87 yards per carry and a TD every 7.28 carries. He achieved that while also starring at strong safety where he recorded 90 tackles in 10 games as the Lions finished with a 4-6 record, losing in the first round of the private school Class-2A playoffs.

Entering his fifth year as a starter at Harding Academy, Cox played last season at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and ran a time of 4.65 in the 40. However, still two weeks from his 18th birthday, the multitalented athlete is growing in stature while lowering his time.

"I'm 6-1 and 201 now," he said. "I ran a 4.45 at Ole Miss camp and I ran that at a combine in Memphis. I've also run that time at school."

Over his four seasons as a starter Cox has played running back, safety, linebacker and wide receiver in addition to returning punts and kicks. He projects as an outside linebacker in college and is rated No. 7 at that position nationally by The Insiders, although some teams like him as a wide receiver and strong safety.

"I played strong safety last year but I moved back to linebacker this year," he said. "Most colleges are looking at me at linebacker but they said they might use me at safety until I pick up weight."

Cox prefers playing linebacker where his acute instincts and reputation for physical play can create havoc in an opponent's backfield.

"I have a lot of speed and power," he said. "I'm quick to the ball, playing linebacker comes natural to me. I like to disrupt the offense and cause turnovers. I can find the ball. I just try to tackle hard to knock the ball loose."

Naturally, this outstanding athlete who bench presses 235 pounds, squats 400 and has a 33-inch vertical leap, would like to post big numbers as a senior.

"I want to rush for over 1,000 yards at the running back position," he said. "I want to lead the team in tackles and hopefully break the school rushing record (for a career). I'm real close to that."

Cox isn't particularly close to a decision as reflected by his flexible list of favorites. He currently lists Florida, Florida State, Miami, USC, LSU and Tennessee as his top teams, but at other times has included Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and North Carolina State. Nebraska is also regarded as a fringe contender for his services.

He readily acknowledges that Tennessee has always been the team he followed growing up and he names Raynoch Thompson (a player he has a lot in common with), Al Wilson, Leonard Little and Peerless Price as his all-time favorite Vols. However, he didn't attend football camp at UT this summer as originally planned and he's reluctant to name Tennessee a leader.

He does admit to having a "good relationship" with UT assistant Trooper Taylor and says the two talk every other week.

Wherever he goes Cox wants to get on the field early and playing time will be a major factor in his decision.

"I want to play right off the bat as a freshman," he said. "I also want to see how I get along with the coaches and players."

Cox has some work to do on his core GPA but has a score of 20 on his ACT.

Even being a Tennessee native who likes the Vols, this isn't a simple smash and grab job for UT's coaching staff. Yet the prize is worth what figures to be a long courtship to land this versatile prospect with a high ceiling and big-time game.

Editor's Note: An indepth feature on Cox will be included in the next issue of Rocky Top News magazine.

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