RECRUITING: Stumpy fullback eyes UT

Tennessee hasn't started a fullback who stood less than six-feet tall in more than two decades. The last two were 5-foot-11 Doug Furnas (1982) and 5-foot-7 Kenneth ''Bowling Ball'' Cooper (1984).

The Vols may be willing to make an exception, however, in the case of a talented Texan. Ryan Southworth is a 5-foot-10 fullback/linebacker from Paris, Texas, who combines outstanding strength (375-pound bench press) with good speed.

Like Furnas and Cooper, Southworth overcomes his lack of height with plenty of savvy, determination and toughness. The fact he's the son of a football coach helps. He recently bulked up from 225 pounds to 231, yet simultaneously managed to lower his 40-yard dash time from 4.8 to 4.7 and raise his vertical jump from 29 inches to 30.

Southworth already has scholarship offers from Air Force, Arkansas State and Northwestern. He has either made or scheduled unofficial visits to Tennessee, Air Force, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Vanderbilt and North Texas.

In addition to his prowess on the gridiron, Southworth made all-district in baseball, qualified for the regional track championships in the discus and qualified for the state power-lifting championships.

Also a standout in the classroom, he carries a 3.5 grade-point average and a 1546 SAT score. Now that APR guidelines can cause schools to lose scholarships when athletes fail to graduate, solid students like Southworth are more valuable than ever.

Still, Tennessee's interest level is unclear. The Vols are loaded at fullback for the moment, with 6-3, 275-pound junior Cory Anderson and 6-2, 259-pound sophomore David Holbert providing a potent 1-2 punch. If the Big Orange elects to sign a fullback next February, however, rugged Ryan Southworth just might be the guy.

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