Kevin Simon, Vol recruiter?

Kevin Simon made the trek from California to Knoxville four years ago, and now he's trying to convince another superstar linebacker from the West Coas t to follow his lead.

The young man's name is Joshua Tatum, and he appears to be one of the premier defensive prospects in America. Because of a shoulder injury, he scarcely played in 2004. But the 6-2, 220-pounder with 4.5 speed made such an impression as a sophomore in 2003 that he is rated the No. 4 linebacker prospect in America by Tatum was voted defensive MVP of his league in 2003 after recording 125 tackles, registering 10 sacks and forcin g seven fumbles at St. Mary's High of Berkeley.

No wonder Simon and defensive coordinator John Chavis are trying to talk hi m into visiting Knoxville.

''Me and Kevin Simon work out together, and he's a good guy,'' Tatum told Ryan Jordan of ''I like Coach Chavis a lot and he's just real .. . a genuine type of guy.''

Tatum, a transfer who will play his senior season for McClymonds High of Oakland, lists Southern Cal, Miami, Tennessee, Cal, Michigan and Oklahoma a s his favorite schools ... in that order. He says Ole Miss is ''close,'' and that Georgia would make the list except that the Dawgs haven't offered a scholarship yet. Odds are, they will very soon.

''Every school I can think of has been out here,'' he said of the recruitin g scrutiny he's getting.

The homestate Trojans appear to be the team to beat for Tatum's services. H e calls head man Pete Carroll ''a defensive guru.''

Miami appears to be 1-A, thanks to a great tradition at his position.

''That's Linebacker University,'' Tatum told Jordan. ''Ray Lewis, (Jonathan ) Vilma, Dan Morgan ... they're all bad. They are some of my favorite players.''

Cal's edge is that it's his hometown school and the first program to offer a scholarship. In addition, he has relatives on the Golden Bear roster.

Michigan's draw is its business school, while Oklahoma's attraction is its recent success at grooming NFL-caliber linebackers.

Based on early returns, Tatum may have NFL potential. He certainly has NFL-caliber self-esteem.

''I am great at reading plays, so I know where to go when the ball gets hiked,'' he told Jordan. ''I have great vision on defense and a lot of that comes from my experience as a running back. I also have great instincts and I'm a hard hitter.

''I'm a great sideline-to-sideline linebacker. I always see where the ball is and I read plays well. I also get to the ball quickly and I'm a good hitter. Right now I'm hungry to get back on the field and play. This next season I just want to totally ball-out and have a real good time playing th e game.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories