Big Visit On Tap For Big Orange

On the first visit weekend of the post season, Tennessee is hosting an outstanding group of prospects that can have an immediate impact on both sides of the ball.

The headliner is Jonathan Stewart of Timberline High School in Olympia, Wa., who is rated the nation's No. 1 running back. The 5-10, 218-pound five-star tailback obliterated the state's rushing records this year while overcoming nagging injuries. He finished with 7,757 career rushing yards at Timberline.

Stewart has taken official visits to USC and Washington State and will visit Oregon on Jan. 7. He is considering Oklahoma State for his fifth official visit. Oregon State is the other candidate for an official visit.

The fact UT is even getting a visit from Stewart is an achievement in itself, given the distance between Olympia and Knoxville. Blessed with brilliant balance and superb vision, Stewart plays faster than his 4.52 time in the 40. He has remarkable strength with a 350-pound bench press and 575-pound squat. Even with that type of leg strength, he's able to reach 37 inches in the vertical leap.

Stewart hasn't named a leader yet and appears to be keeping his options open. That is good news for UT which is looking to show him some southern hospitality and an up close look at what SEC football is all about.

The other visiting offensive prospect that addresses a need for the Vols is center Josh McNeil of Collins, Miss. A four-year starter at Collins High School the 6-foot-4, 275-pound McNeil is rated one of the nation's top two center prospects. An excellent technician who understands the nuances of the position, McNeil is expected to pick between Mississippi State, LSU and Tennessee. He has visited both the Tigers and Bulldogs along with USC and Florida. UT is his last official visit and he's expected to make a commitment by Christmas.

"I really don't know a whole lot about them but I go there in two weeks," McNeil told Scout.com's Ryan Jordan. "I like Coach Stephens and Coach Fulmer and they have some nice facilities from what I remember when I went up there a few years ago."

Tennessee's loses starting center Jason Respert to graduation this year and is looking to develop a long-term option there. McNeil is an excellent student with a 3.8 GPA and a 20 on his ACT.

Down the stretch of the 2004 campaign, Tennessee had major problems on defense and suffered from poor play in the secondary and lack of depth at linebacker and the defensive line throughout the season. But help could be on the way if the Vols are able to make a big impression on two visiting linebackers and cornerbacks this weekend.

The linebackers visiting The Hill are Rico McCoy of Washington, D.C. and Andre Mathis of Erie, Pa. McCoy, 6-2, 215, 4.55, is rated the nation's No. 15 linebacker by Scout.com. Mathis, 6-2. 220, 4.60, is ranked No. 21 nationally.

The visiting cornerback prospects are more celebrated than the linebackers. Bryan Evans, 5-11, 177, 4.45, is listed by Scout.com as the No. 6 corner in the Class of 2005. He earned all-state honors at Edward H. White High School in Jacksonville, Fla. He is looking at LSU, Georgia, Florida and Florida State in addition to UT.

By comparison cornerback Derek Pegues of South Panola High School in Batesville, Miss., is rated No. 15, but some analysts regard him as one of the very best true cover corner prospects in the nation. His value to his high school team as a quarterback and wide receiver didn't allow Pegues a chance to show what he could do at corner. However at 5-10, 175, 4.5, with quick feet and exceptional transition skills, Pegues is expected to make a seamless switch to the secondary at the next level.

No visit weekend would be complete without the requisite sleeper prospect and the Vols have a mighty big one in 6-foot-3, 290-pound, defensive tackle Augustus Parrish of Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, Md. You won't find Parrish listed among the top prospects at his position by Scout.com, but UT coaches have been eyeing him since before the season. He has offers from MAC teams Marshall, Kent State and Akron and is also being recruited by Michigan State. Tennessee hasn't extended an offer yet but that may have more to do with Parrish's academic standing than his potential as a player.

There are several other prospects that may decide to visit this weekend. Check for updates throughout the week.


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