Vols Find Gold Near The Hill

What do Bill Bates, Mike "Stop" Cofer, Raleigh McKenzie, John Bruhin, Joey Clinkscale, Reggie Cobb, Tim Irwin, Jackie Walker, Ron Widby, Bill Young and J.J. McKlesky have in common?

That's right, they're all former Volunteer stars who played their high school football in Knoxville. However over the last decade such local products have been few and far between. One of the rare exceptions is Cory Anderson who went from being a defensive end who was virtually ignored by major college recruiters to Tennessee's starting fullback.

There may not be as many premiere football prospects in the state of Tennessee this year as compared to last year, but there is definitely more depth and balance.

On Thursday we touted the talent that exists in the Memphis area, which is nothing unusual, but it's quite uncommon to find as many standouts as are in the Knoxville and east Tennessee area this year.

The Vols already have commitments from Alcoa High School running back Dustin Lindsey, 6-1, 215, and Powell High School defensive end Lee Smith, 6-5, 240, who is the son of former UT offensive linemen Daryle Smith. Tennessee also has a soft verbal from Chattanooga Baylor lineman Jacques McClendon.

This already represents a mega haul of local talent and the Vols are not finished mining home territory for more gridiron gems. The biggest prize out there is Brandon Warren a tight end/defensive end who is Lindsey's teammate at Alcoa. As a junior he helped lead Alcoa to the state title by catching 45 passes for 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. On defense he had 70 tackles including 25 sacks and 25 total tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He caused five fumbles and returned on fumble for a 95-yard touchdown.

Although Scout.com's national ratings have yet to be released, Warren is expected to be among the top three tight ends nationally in the Class of 2006. For sure the Vols have plenty of competition for the four-year starter. He already reportedly has over 30 offers including scholarships from Florida State, LSU, Auburn, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and, of course, Tennessee.

While the Vols enjoy a home field advantage, Warren did not grow up a fan of the Big Orange.

"I grew up a Florida State fan, but that doesn't necessarily give them an advantage," he told James Hale of OU Insider. "My family comes from Florida and I have always liked Florida teams. We are looking around and I don't have any problems leaving the South if I find a team that I like better and feel that is best for me."

Warren could play on either side of the ball, but appears to prefer tight end at this point.

"Most schools are recruiting me as a tight end, but some are recruiting me as a defensive end," Warren stated. "I would rather play on the offensive side of the ball, but it really doesn't matter because I just want to play. I just want them to put me at the best position for them and let me learn and go play it."

Over his first three seasons at Alcoa the versatile and athletic Warren has played defensive end, tight end, fullback, outside linebacker, nose tackle, defensive tackle and wide receiver. That type of diversity makes him a prospect in demand and a top target for the Vols, who will try to sell him on assuming a role like Jason Witten did at UT before becoming an all-pro player in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys.

Another Knoxville prospect related to a former Vol star is linebacker/fullback Tyrone Cobb of Fulton High School. The 6-1, 225-pound Cobb is the brother of of running back Reggie Cobb, who went on to play seven seasons in the NFL after a productive, albeit troubled, college career at UT.

Cobb took a visit to Louisville last month and expects to visit South Carolina in May. He is also being courted by Alabama, North Carolina, Penn State and Tennessee. While he doesn't possess his brother's breakaway speed, Cobb did rush for 800 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in only 84 carries as a junior.

But his most impressive work was on defense where he amassed 175 tackles with four sacks and four forced fumbles. Cobb expects to take five visits before deciding on a school.

The cost of football recruiting appears to be going down at Tennessee.

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