RECRUITING: Vols, LSU collide

The two teams projected to meet in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game already are meeting in a major battle on the recruiting front.

SEC East favorite Tennessee and SEC West favorite LSU are locked in quite a competition for the services of Kelvin Sheppard, a highly regarded 6-2, 215-pound linebacker from Stephenson High School of Stone Mountain, Ga.

"It's Tennessee and LSU tied up right now," Sheppard told The Knoxville News-Sentinel. "Tennessee was my leader before I took my trip down to LSU (last weekend), but now I think those two are tied up."

The bad news: Two of Sheppard's prep teammates, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and linebacker Perry Riley, also are being recruited by LSU.

The good news: Ace recruiter Trooper Taylor is on the trail for Tennessee.

"Coach Trooper is a real good guy," Sheppard told the News-Sentinel. "We talk about life. Sometimes it's not even about football. Then other times we just talk about if I came to Tennessee I could make an impact."

Sheppard, who claims 16 scholarship offers, recorded 106 tackles last fall, including 16 tackles for loss. He also intercepted two passes. He has the speed (4.6 in the 40-yard dash) to play outside linebacker but has the strength (300-pound bench press) and growth potential to play in the middle, as well.

With Tennessee losing all three projected starting linebackers following the 2005 season – Kevin Simon, Omar Gaither and Jason Mitchell – securing some prospects to groom for future ‘backer trios is a must.

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