Vols Lose Turner to Trojans

They say it never rains in Southern California, but it is currently pouring in Tennessee.

UT apparently lost out on the top prospect in the Volunteer State and the No. 3 wide receiver in the nation today when Patrick Turner of Goodpasture High School committed to reigning national champion USC.

Turner's decision takes a little more wind out of the Vols sails coming one day after Michael Oher, of Memphis Briarcrest Christian High School, pledged to Ole Miss. That means Tennessee lost two of the three in-state five-star prospects in the Class of 2005. Antioch High School tailback LaMarcus Coker is the third five-star prospect in Tennessee.

UT's recruitment of Turner was a roller coaster ride from the beginning. Early on the Vols appeared to have the inside track but by mid November Turner was indicating he wouldn't take an official visit to campus. He changed his mind earlier this month and took a visit that went so well the Vols moved into a dead heat with USC, which he visited in September.

Last week in San Antonio at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Turner spent much of his time with a group of UT commitments that included: Jonathan Crompton, Josh McNeil, Demetrice Morley, Rico McCoy and Adam Myers-White. At one point during the week he is believed to have committed to Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer by phone, but soon had second thoughts after a blitz by USC prospects.

Turner proved himself to be a standout during the week of practice leading up to the game by consistently beating man coverage and hauling in passes on a wide variety of routes. He was much less successful during Saturday's game due to a variety of obstacles, not the least of which was a relentless West pass rush that allowed East QBs no time to throw.

Turner was scheduled to go public with his decision during Saturday's game but was a late scratch. When he didn't announce on the NBC broadcast alarms were set off in Knoxville and the final struggle for his considerable services began.

Unfortunately, UT lost that fight but the Vols aren't out of the All-American hunt, as their aims now turn to wide receiver Slick Shelley of Southside High School in Fort Smith, Ark. He is rated the nation's No. 21 wideout and he caught a touchdown in San Antonio on Saturday. Like Turner, Shelley is a tall rangy receiver with good leaping ability and soft hands. Shelley will visit LSU this weekend and Tennessee the following weekend. He is expected to choose either the Tigers or the Vols after completing the visits.

Tennessee is locked in a battle with USC, Nebraska and Iowa for the top recruiting class in America in 2005. The Vols also remain in the hunt for such notable prospects as No. 1 running back Jonathan Stewart, No. 3 defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger, No. 1 safety Kenneth Phillips, No. 8 cornerback Bryan Evans, No. 9 cornerback Derek Pegues, No. 4 defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois and No. 10 offensive lineman Chris Scott.

UT has 21 commitments and may exceed 25 depending on availability and need.

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