RECRUITING: Tatum to Visit UT

After a couple of disappointing days, Tennessee needed some good recruiting news and it came today when's No. 4 ranked linebacker prospect, Josh Tatum, announced that one of his five official visits will go to the Vols.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound, five-star linebacker plays for McClymonds High School in Oakland, Calif., but he is renown from coast-to-coast for his sideline-to-sideline athleticism and seek-and-destroy mentality.

Boasting 4.51 cruising speed, a 4.38 shuttle and a 37-inch vertical leap, Tatum can pursue with the best of them, and terminate forward progress with extreme prejudice, given his splendid size, upper body strength and powerful leg drive. He lifts 335 pounds in the bench press and has recorded a 515 squat.

Tatum would be ranked higher if not for missing his junior campaign at St. Mary's in Berkley, Calif., with a shoulder injury. However as a sophomore there he posted 125 tackles (85 solo), 10 sacks, seven forced fumbles and four interceptions to win league defensive MVP honors. He transferred to McClymonds for his senior season and prepared to show the progress he has made since his stellar sophomore campaign.

As good as he is Josh Tatum still has room for improvement, especially when playing in space or covering routes, but there's no shortage of talent at his disposal. He is explosive off the edge and excellent on blitzes.

"I'm a great sideline-to-sideline linebacker," Tatum said of himself. "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 the game."

Tatum's eagerness to get back on the gridiron mirrors that of his friend Kevin Simon, who enters his senior season at Tennessee following knee surgery that robbed him of all but six quarters of his junior season. Their relationship has been a boost for the Vols, although Tatum says Simon isn't recruiting him as much as informing him.

"My good friend Kevin Simon (another De La Salle grad) plays linebacker there and we talk a lot," he told Jim McGill of Bear Insider. "I mean, he's not really recruiting me, but it's obvious the program has a lot to offer. They're another opportunity for early PT with a depth chart that won't be too loaded after this season. Coach (John) Chavis – they call him "The Chief" –he's a great coach, too."

Chavis, UT's defensive coordinator and linebacker coach, was a key component in the Vols signing of Simon back in 2001. Tennessee loses all three starters at linebacker after the 2005 season and is in need of impact prospects, making Tatum and UT a good fit.

Of course, there's plenty of competition from sea to shining sea with Tatum scheduled to visit Michigan (Oct. 14), Oregon (Oct. 28), USC (Dec. 2) and Miami (Dec. 9). He is slated to visit Tennessee the weekend of the Vanderbilt game (Nov. 18). Tatum is also considering California and Oklahoma.

A great season, a good friendship, plenty of playing time just might enable the Vols to land Tatum.

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