Tennessee States Strong Case

Evidence of Tennessee's out-of-state success in football recruiting abound throughout the Class of 2005 with visits, prospects and scholarships still remaining in advance of national signing day on Feb. 2.

Currently the Vols have commitments from prospects representing 10 states and the District of Columbia. That list includes: seven from Tennessee, three from North Carolina, two from Florida and one each from Wisconsin, Ohio, Arkansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia and Washington D.C.

Noticeably absent from that varied field of locales are gridiron enriched border states Georgia and South Carolina as well as any tall talent from Texas's or any stars from California's constellation. The Vols could check off two of those states and raise their total to 12 by signing Chris Scott of Lovejoy, Ga. and DeMarcus Granger of Dallas, Texas.

With Scott undecided and Michael Oher and Dace Richardson headed elsewhere, Tennessee has added another offensive line target in 6-foot-6, 350-pound Kevin Myers of Los Angeles, who is enrolled at Compton Community College. Myers pledged to LSU back in November but has since reopened the recruiting process and could add a visit to UT to scheduled trips to Nebraska and Oregon. He has also visited Oklahoma and is still open to LSU.

Tennessee had hoped to get two prospects from the O-line trio of Scott, Oher, Richardson and are looking at alternatives in light of one of the few lows in what has been bountiful harvest of high school standouts.

The Vols may also give some in-state linemen a longer look in hopes of filling a void. Such prospects might include Zane Bruhin of Powell High School in Knoxville, Mark Thompson of Donelson Christian Academy and Scott Eller of Collierville. Bruhin, 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, is the son of former UT all-SEC lineman John Bruhin. Tennessee could cross another state of its list by signing O-lineman Ryan Bishop, 6-3, 305, of Walterboro, S.C.

Of course the Vols could finished off this class with some fine Floridians such as No. 1 safety Kenneth Phillips of Coral City High School in Miami, No. 4 defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois also of Coral City High, No. 8 cornerback Bryan Evans, of Jacksonville, No. 9 wide receiver O.J. Murdock of Tampa, No. 20 linebacker Gerald Williams of Lauderdale Lakes, No. 24 defensive tackle Vladimir Richard of Sunrise or No. 21 tight end Brian Ellis of Daytona Beach. The most likely from this list would probably be Ellis, Phillips and Jean-Francois.

Tennessee's success in Arkansas in recent years may continue if the Vols can manage to snag No. 21 wide receiver Slick Shelley of Fort Smith. UT has a longtime commitment from cornerback Ricardo Kemp of Warren, Ark., but there are indications he may be wavering under a late blitz by the Razorbacks.

Shelley, 6-4, 190, would represent an excellent recovery from the loss of Patrick Turner to USC. He is visiting LSU this weekend and will be in Knoxville next weekend. He is expected to choose between those two perennial SEC powers.

Further west the Vols are interested in Washington High School running back Felix Jones of Tulsa, Okla. At 5-10, 190, Jones is reported to have 4.4 speed and is rated the No. 61 running back nationally by Scout.com. He has been offered by Texas A&M and is drawing interest from Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Other fringe candidates at running back include: Will Ford, of Travelers Rest, S.C., Carl Taylor of Dallas, Texas, Antoine Cokes of Berkley, Calif., Shawn Moore of Winston-Salem, N.C. and Jake Nunley of Manchester, Tenn.

Other potential targets on UT's recruiting board include: No. 12 defensive end Kyle Newell, of Bethlehem, Pa., No. 28 defensive end Barry Turner of Brentwood, Tenn., No. 9 cornerback Derek Pegues and No. 37 defensive tackle Brandon Perry of Hawkinsville, Ga.

Of course, Tennessee won't give up on Patrick Turner despite his recent declaration. That brings up another question: If Turner changed his mind and goes to UT will he count as a California prospect on the Vols parade of states?

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