• It appears to be an all SEC East Division battle for Valdimir Richard, a highly sought defensive end prospect from Piper High School in Sunrise, Fla. Richard is a soft commitment to Florida but is also strongly considering Tennessee and Georgia. He visited UT for the Notre Dame game and will be in Athens on Jan. 14 followed by an official to Florida on Jan. 28. He has eliminated North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Auburn. Look for Richard, 6-4, 255, 4.8, is rated No. 24 at his position by Scout.com. Look for the defensive end to remain a Gator by the end of the process.
• Tennessee remains a contender for Kyle Moore, 6-6, 249, 4.9, of Warner Robbins, Ga., the same high school that produced Jason Respert of the Vols. Moore recently received an in-home visit from USC which he rates as a co-favorite along with national championship challenger Oklahoma. Tennessee is in a pack with Miami (Jan. 14, visit), Louisville (Jan. 7, visit) and Georgia (no visit date). The prospectus for UT is not favorable.
• The Vols got a surprise visit today from Patrick Turner of Nashville Goodpasture High School. Rated the nation's No. 3 wide receiver by Scout.com, some observers feel he will become a topflight H-back. Turner indicated several weeks ago that he wouldn't visit UT, but had an apparent change of heart. To change his mind will require a good visit and persuasive presentation on how the Vols see him in their offense. He has visited LSU and USC and is still considering Miami, Florida and Texas. Turner. 6-5, 215, 4.6, will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next Saturday in San Antonio.
• Tennessee took a step forward in the chase for the nation's No. 1 rated running back Thursday, when Jonathan Stewart, of Olympia, Wa., dropped USC from his list of finalists. Oregon, Washington and Washington State remain the Vols primary contenders with Oklahoma State and Oregon State on the fringe. It would be an upset if Tennessee comes out on top especially since Ty Willingham assumed the helm at Washington.
• The nation's No. 2 rated linebacker Eugene Hayes, 6-1, 218, 4.6, of Madison County, Fla., has Tennessee as a finalist along with Oklahoma, Florida, USC and Clemson. He visits UT on Jan. 14 followed by visits to Clemson (Jan. 21) and USC (Jan. 28). He doesn't list a favorite at this point and appears open. However his most recent declaration comes one day after he had named Florida State and Tennessee as co-leaders.
• One benefit of playing in the Cotton Bowl was getting closer to DeMarcus Granger the nation's No. 3 rated defensive tackle prospect from Kimball High School in Dallas. Now it appears Tennessee will get his last official visit on Jan. 28. He visits Oklahoma State on Jan. 14 and Texas on Jan. 21. He is also considering Arizona State, Oklahoma and LSU and doesn't list a leader. Sources close to the situation believe the Vols have closed ground and have become a legitimate contender.
• Losing Jason Allen to the NFL was a blow to UT's 2005 football season, but it might be a blessing to the it's 2005 signing class. Premier safety prospects like Kenneth Phillips and Adam Myers-White will likely see it as an opportunity to play early. Phillips, who is rated the nation's No. 1 safety prospect, would likely move right into a starting role in the secondary.
* Recently committed Josh McNeil confirmed he had placed a phone call to Georgia O-lineman Chris Scott encouraging him to sign with Tennessee. McNeil said he will continue that process next week in San Antonio as well as attempt to sell other U.S. Army All-Americans on UT. McNeil is excited about the offensive line the Vols are putting together and he had a message for Tennessee fans. "You hear players say they are soft commitments and things like that. Well, I'm 100 percent committed. I'm not changing my mind."