It's Like Deja Vol All Over Again

Doing repeat business with prominent high school football programs is essential to sustained success in recruiting, so it should come as no surprise Tennessee does a lot of repeat business.

That's especially true as the 2006 recruiting campaign begins to take shape. This early in the process Vol fans may not be familiar with the prospects names, but they will have no problems recognizing their points of origin.

For instance: there's Lovejoy High School in Lovejoy, Ga., from which Tennessee signed redshirt freshman O-lineman Anthony Parker in 2004. In the Class of 2005, UT followed up by signing Parker's former teammate Chris Scott, another offensive lineman who was one of the top 10 players at his position. Tennessee returns to Lovejoy High School this year in pursuit of Mario Fannin, one of the most versatile athletes in the South.

At 5-foot-11, 205 pounds with 4.5 speed, Fannin could play wide receiver, corner, safety, running back or even linebacker at the next level. The fact he is a quarterback at Lovejoy underscores his value with the ball in his hands as well as his remarkable diversity. UT is Fannin's current leader ahead of Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech and Florida.

Memphis Melrose has probably produced more Division-I prospects in the last decade than any other high school in Tennessee producing such former Vols as Andre Lott, Cedrick Wilson and Mondre Dickerson as well as current Vol sophomore Ellix Wilson.

The prize Golden Wildcat on this season's roster is defensive tackle Michael Carter, 6-3, 275, 4.9, who anchored a Melrose defense that surrendered a paltry 4.6 points per game in 2004. He recorded 97 tackles and 16 sacks as a senior with a reported 52 QB hurries. Georgia, Miami, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisville and Maryland are some of the other schools interested in Carter.

Over at Marlboro County High School in Bennettsville, S.C., is another prospect with a familiar name. Jason Ayers, who is the brother of UT redshirt freshman defensive end Robert Ayers, has the look of a rush end at 6-3, 225, with 4.70 speed. Like Robert, Jason plays linebacker at Marlboro where he recorded 116 tackles and four sacks as a junior. The Vols have extended the younger Ayers an offer and is competing with Clemson, South Carolina and N.C. State for his services.

Over near the eastern seaboard in Camden N.J., at Woodrow Wilson High School the Vols signed Rashad Baker in 2000, who started four seasons before making the Buffalo Bills roster as a free agent. In 2003, UT returned to Wilson and came away with high school all-American defensive end Turk McBride. The Vols are currently pursuing Wilson defensive back Antwine Perez who is regarded as perhaps the top safety in the country. At 6-2, 200, with 4.5 speed, he can cover ground and deliver a blow with the best of them. Perez is a two-way star at quarterback and safety, who intercepted seven passes as a junior.

UT's recruiting staff is looking to go back-to-back by signing top prospects in consecutive seasons at several other schools.

In 2005, Tennessee signed defensive back Antonio Wardlow from Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, N.C. Now the Vols are recruiting his cousin, O.C. Wardlow, 6-0, 178, 4.5. Playing quarterback for Mount Tabor last season, Wardlow threw for over 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns but projects as a corner in college. He currently favors the Vols over offers from Virginia and South Carolina.

At Killian High School in Miami, which produced Demetrice Morley, the jewel of Tennessee's top-rated 2005 recruiting class, is offensive lineman Kevin Perez, 6-4, 275. The Vols have offered Perez but Auburn, Georgia, Miami and Florida are also involved.

Then there is giant offensive lineman Matt Trinko of Oak Creek High School in Wisconsin, who checks in at an intimidating 6-81/2, 303 pounds. Oak Creek is the school that produced 2005 all-American signee Raymond Henderson. Iowa and Wisconsin are also prominent contenders for the behemoth.

In rare instances the Vols are able to hit the daily double by getting two prospects from one school in the same year. In 1997, the got both Lott and Wilson from Melrose. In 2005, they landed both Malcolm Rawls and Dan Williams from Memphis East High School. Now they are trying to get two top prospects from nearby Alcoa High School. Earlier this spring, the Vols got a commitment from running back Dustin Lindsey and would like to add his teammate, Brandon Warren, a 6-foot-4, 237-pound, tight end who is one of the top players at his position in the country.

In recruiting wars, familiarity breeds respect.

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