Keeping Coker in the Volunteer State

Gaining a commitment from a blue chip prospect takes hard work, retaining a commitment from such a pigskin prize is a task of Herculean proportions.

Take the case of Antioch tailback LaMarcus Coker, who checks in as the nation's No. 2 rated back according to The Insiders. Coker pledged to be the centerpiece of Tennessee's 2005 recruiting class before the ink had dried on the 2004 scholarship papers. Now he plans to visit at least two other SEC schools.

"I am planning on going to Alabama in December," he told The Insider's Andrew Bone. "I will probably try to go to Auburn in December. I want Tennessee to be my last visit, so I can compare the other schools to Tennessee."

According to the story, Coker will also visit Knoxville next week for the Vols SEC showdown against Florida.

Just like Coker gave UT a quick start in recruiting this season, he's off to a blazing beginning in his senior campaign. After rushing for 1,293 yards and 14 touchdowns on 189 attempts as a junior, he is averaging over 200 yards per game as a senior at Antioch.

"In my first game, I had 180 yards rushing with three touchdowns," he reported to Bone. "Last week, I had 235 yards with four touchdowns. We play Overton this week, at home."

Early commitments often have second thoughts as the phone calls pour in from across the country and engraved invitations are delivered nonstop to their front doorstep. For example: Last year Tennessee committed Chattanooga Tyner all-American Demonte Bolden in April. By the time July rolled around he was talking of reopening the process with Georgia, Alabama and Auburn being prime contenders. Eventually, Bolden signed with the Vols and is now in Hargrave Military Academy improving his academics. He plans to enroll at Tennessee in December.

In April of 2000, Tennessee got an early commitment from Jason Witten who later visited Virginia Tech and vacillated on his decision before finally signing with the Vols.

In 2003, UT got a commitment from running back Gerald Riggs Jr., who did sign with the Vols. But not before taking an 11th hour trip to Nebraska and getting a Big Orange nation in an uproar.

None of this means the Vols will continue to be so fortunate as far as Coker is concerned. However there is no question that it's easier to keep an early in-state commitment as compared to an early out-of-state commitment.

Besides, Coker is a self-described Tennessee fan who fell in love with the campus on a couple of unofficial visits and is extremely comfortable with the coaching staff. He also recognizes the opportunity for early playing time on The Hill is very real.

"The running back situation is great," he told Rocky Top News in a recent feature. "Gerald Riggs is the only one that will be left as far as competition wise for a starting spot. I pretty much know I will be on the field my freshman year. Worst way it can happen is that I'm sharing time with Gerald Riggs and returning kickoffs, or I'm a feature back in the offense. They'll always be around the top 10, playing in the big TV games. You don't have to worry about losing seasons. It's close to home. You don't have to worry about the coach getting fired or getting lost in the mix somewhere."

Those circumstances still prevail and are reason enough for Coker to Volunteer.

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