UT Making Headway In Big Ten Country

With the Big Ten experiencing big trouble on the gridiron this season, Tennessee is in position to pick up a pair of the more exciting defensive prospects in the Class of 2005.

UT is making in-roads in Big Ten territory with the nation's No. 2 rated defensive end prospect, J.B. Paxson, of Greenwood, Ind, and the nation's No. 7 defensive end, Travis Beckum of Oak Creek, Wis.

Paxson, who visited the Vols unofficially over the summer and returned on another unofficial visit for the Florida game, currently makes Tennessee his co-favorite along with home-state power Purdue. He plans to return to Knoxville for an official visit later this fall. He has an official visit set for Purdue on Nov. 13 and also plans to visit Florida and Arizona.

Major League Baseball is another major contender for the services of Paxson, who is a top catcher prospect, but he indicates in an interview with The Insiders Allen Wallace that football looms larger on his horizon.

"Baseball can't match the full ride offers of football," he said, "but I know I can have my summer league baseball coach make some phone calls to some schools and get me those full rides if that is my intention for a college sport. I might play baseball in college and I might not. I could be that guy that just waits longer to make his decision, you never know I guess."

It's unclear if the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Paxson caught Big Orange fever while on the Hill two weeks ago, but his absence since may have brought on a full blown case of the Rocky Top blues.

"Tennessee has been recruiting me pretty hard and when I took the Vols Walk it was just great," he related to Allen. "I was excited about being there, and it was just a good time. They have a great defense and offense. I like coaches (Phillip) Fulmer and (Greg) Adkins a lot. Everything about Tennessee is fun and it's just a great program."

Paxson is a premier pass rusher who recorded a combined 47 sacks his sophomore and junior seasons at Center Grove High School. Through six games as a senior he has experienced his share of double teams as well as outright avoidance, but has still managed 55 tackles (12 for losses) with six sacks and for fumble recoveries. His athletic largess and non-stop motor fit well in UT's attacking defensive scheme. He could eventually develop into a defensive tackle, but figures to be an impact player wherever he lines up.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Beckum isn't as far along in his recruting process but has Tennessee among his early favorites.

"A lot of coaches are calling a lot," Beckum told The Insiders Mike Bakas. "I'm getting a lot of offers and stuff like that. I'll probably start setting up some trips soon so I can take some during the season. I just haven't set any dates yet.

"I don't even have a favorite. I'm looking at Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan, teams like that. Miami."

The versatile Beckum has 4.5 speed and could play wide receiver, safety, defensive end or linebacker at the next level. As a junior he posted 40 solo tackles with 12 sacks and eight interceptions for Oak Creek High School.

The Vols are also recruiting his teammate Raymond Henderson, who is rated the nation's No. 6 defensive end prospect.

"That's my boy right there," Beckum said of Henderson. "We're looking at some of the same colleges so there's a chance we'll sign with the same one."

Signing the talented teammates would be the blue chip special for a Tennessee team looking for difference makers at defensive end.

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