Can Trooper Rope Louisiana Star?

It figures to be a long, hard, uphill battle, but the Vols are at least in the fight for Louisiana standout Jai Eugene of Destrehan High School.

A five-star prospect who can play cornerback or wide receiver, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Eugene has over 40 offers and currently lists Florida, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Southern California as his seven favorites.

Playing quarterback and cornerback as a junior, Eugene passed for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 750 yards and six TDs. On defense, he recorded 25 tackles with one sack and seven interceptions. He projects as a receiver or corner in college and Florida wants him to play both positions.

Tennessee likes Eugene as a wide receiver which may work against the Vols. In a twist from the norm of high school superstars, Eugene appears to be more interested in defending passes than he is in catching them.

"Most of these schools want me as a corner," he told Scout.com's Allen Wallace. "I know that Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska and Oklahoma all want me as a wide receiver though. I love playing cornerback, but if a program needs me as a receiver then I'll do it. But I prefer playing cornerback in college."

Whatever position Eugene ends up playing at the next level he seems likely to play out of state.

"I think there is 90 percent chance of me leaving the state of Louisiana to play football," he told Bob Redman of GatorCountry.com.

That bodes better for Tennessee's chances as does early opportunity to play. The Vols are slated to graduate one starting cornerback (Jason Allen) and will likely lose several wide receivers. In time it's feasible he could contribute on both sides of the ball.

Another factor working in UT's favor is recruiting ace Trooper Taylor, who has already developed a good rapport with Eugene. "I won't take an official visit there (LSU) because I already know what they're all about," he told Wallace. "I'm also really close with coach Taylor (running backs) from Tennessee, and I'm also considering them in this process." Eugene led Destrehan to a 9-4 mark in 2004 and is currently rated the nation's No. 1 cornerback prospect by Scout.com. He had an outstanding combine in New Orleans clocking a 4.49, turning in a 4.22 shuttle time and recording a vertical leap of 33.5 inches. He bench presses 280 pounds and squats 405. A sprinter for the track team he has posted times of 10.3 in the 100 meters and 21.5 in the 200.

He displays the type of hip flexibility needed to make quick changes in direction and his recognition skills are highly developed for a high school DB. Eugene believes his stint at signal caller enhanced his understanding of pass coverage.

"I'm good at being aware of what's going on around me on the field, and I react well to the ball," he said. "I'm good at focusing on the game and knowing routes and reading plays. What I'm real good at is my coverage. Also, this past season I played in eight games as quarterback. At first, I started off the season as cornerback but then I was transferred to QB because I was needed at the position. Playing that position really helped me understand receivers better and how they think."

It's too early to predict where Eugene might sign, however his teammate Chaz Washington has already committed to Oklahoma and he attended a football camp at Miami last spring.

If Taylor can pull this rabbit out of a hat, he's the best magician since David Copperfield.


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