Vols Lose One, Fight for Another

There's good news and bad news for Tennessee football recruiting in the state of Mississippi. The good news is the Vols remain in contention for Josh McNeil, considered by many to be the best natural center prospect in the nation. The bad news is UT has apparently been from consideration by Jere Powe regarded as perhaps the top nose-tackle in the Class of 2005.

The loss of Jere Powe, who is expected to choose between Auburn, Nebraska and LSU with the Tigers holding the lead, is a tough break for a Tennessee team that is woefully deficient of depth at defensive tackle. His ability to effectively play over the center would add another dimension to the Vols defensive scheme. Any team Powe chooses will likely have to place him in prep school or junior college.

But if they won't join you, don't let them beat you. Josh McNeil is the perfect counter to a dominating nose tackle given his outstanding size, strength and blocking skills. Checking in at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, McNeil bench presses an impressive 375 pounds, squats 500 and power cleans 285. He's also about to reach those second level blocks with his 5.2 speed.

Furthermore, McNeil is fully qualified with a 3.5 GPA and a score of 20 on his ACT. A starter since the ninth grade at Collins High School, McNeil earned second team all-state honors as a junior after amassing 112 pancake blocks. He has never allowed a single quarterback sack in his stellar career and he won't turn 18 until March of next year.

"I'm still not ready to name a top 5 just yet," McNeil told The Insiders Ryan Jordan. "I have seven or eight schools I'm looking at and those are Florida, Mississippi State, Georgia, Nebraska, LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss. I don't have a leader yet and I'm wide open."

And what is McNeil looking for in a college?

"I'm looking at the overall environment and the facilities on campus," he said. "I'm also considering the depth chart and the overall winning tradition of the program.

"I'm likely going to take all my visits before I make any kind of decision. I'll probably schedule them all for after the season."

McNeil took unofficial visits to LSU, MSU, Florida and Georgia this summer but has yet to make it to Knoxville. However, he expresses admiration for UT's program which is a good indication the Vols will receive one of his five official visits.

"They have one of the biggest stadiums in the country and great facilities," he said of Tennessee. "They always have a good program year after year."

Incidentally, McNeil's brother, Chris McNeil, is slated to be the Bulldogs starting center this season. However Josh is quick to insist that will not impact his decision.

McNeil is rated the nation's No. 13 offensive lineman by The Insiders and is a member of the national top 100 prospects.

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