N.C. Has Been Very Good To UT

Long happy hunting ground for UT's football program, the Vols signed but one prospect from the state of North Carolina in 2003 and zero in 2004, but 2005 is shaping up dramatically different.

With Tuesday's announcement that Antonio Wardlow of Parkland High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., has committed to Tennessee, the Vols now have three Tar Heel natives among their current list of nine verbal pledges. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Wardlow is rated the nation's No. 27 safety prospect by Scout.com.

"I took my official visit to Tennessee this past weekend," Wardlow told Don Callahan of Scout.com. "It felt like it was the right place for me to commit to. I felt comfortable around the players and coaches. And I like the atmosphere and academics there."

The two-way star boasts a fabulous 40-time of 4.4 flat. He recorded 85 tackles as a junior and intercepted nine passes with six pass breakups. He has played both free safety and wingback this season, helping Parkland build an 8-3 with a berth in the Class-3A state playoffs. With his decision settled and no more official visits to take, Wardlow can now concentrate on the post-season phase of his senior season.

"My goal now is making it to the [North Carolina 3A] State's [Championship]," Wardlow said. "I think we have a good chance of making it to the State Championship. I think we need to plan our game and come ready to play every game and not take anybody for granted."

Wardlow chose Tennessee over offers from Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

Wardlow's commitment comes one week to day after wide receiver Josh Briscoe of Burns High School in Lawndale, N.C., announced he would become a Vol. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound wideout is rated No. 39 nationally at his position by Scout.com. Briscoe, who runs a 4.5 time in the 40 and caught 44 passes for 726 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. Through eight games of his senior season, the versatile Briscoe pulled in 32 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns to become Cleveland County's all-time leading receiver. He's also rushed for three scores and returned a punt the distance.

"I get yards after the catch and I can make people miss," Briscoe said of his strengths. "I have great hands and I'm real good at reading coverages. I'd like a quicker step off the line and get open quicker. I also want to improve my lower body strength."

Briscoe bench presses 250 pounds and squats 320. He has an impressive 37-inch vertical leap and is regarded as a thinking man's receiver who understands the importance of route running and finding open spots against the zone. An excellent student, Briscoe carries a 3.9 GPA and scored a 950 on his first attempt at the SAT.

In landing Briscoe, the Vols prevailed over a field of strong contenders, including offers from Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Maryland and North Carolina State. He visited Clemson and Georgia Tech and canceled a visit to Georgia after deciding on Tennessee.

The third prospect from North Carolina committed to UT is the biggest of all — quarterback Jonathan Crompton of Tuscola High School in Waynesville, N.C. Rated the nation's No. 4 signal caller the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Crompton is enjoying a standout senior season and was recently selected to play in the U.S. Army High School All-American game. He passed for over 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns against only five INTs as a junior.

Crompton made his commitment to Tennessee in June and has continued to stick by it despite the early emergence of true freshmen signal callers Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer. He is rated higher than either of those players coming out of high school and their recent injuries could tighten the pack going into next season when Crompton will enter the race.

Although he pledged to Tennessee four months ago, Crompton still has standing offers from Miami, LSU, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina State and Virginia among others.

In addition to this Tar Heel trio, the Vols remain contenders for several other prominent North Carolina prospects, including: the nation's No. 9 rated running back Toney Baker, of Jamestown, N.C., No. 5 tight end Jonathan Hannah of Hope Mills, N.C., No. 12 linebacker Derek Nicholson of Winston-Salem, N.C., and No. 12 safety Montario Hardesty of New Bern, N.C.

The only man from beyond the borders of North Carolina to do better in the Tar Heel State this fall as UT assistant Dan Brooks is U.S. President George Bush.

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