Headlining that top quality quartet is 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker Marcus Ball, who is rated No. 7 nationally at his position by Scout.com. As a junior, playing primarily on defense, he amassed 122 tackles (78 solo), including 14 behind the line of scrimmage and seven sacks. An aggressive player with fine instincts and the ability to flow to the football, he runs a 4.50 time in the 40 and has the type of quickness and toughness UT looks for in its linebackers. Ball, who could also play strong safety or running back, has a 34-inch vertical and has turned a 10.72 time in the 100 meters. He also runs the 200 meters and 400 meters for the Jaguar varsity track team.
The younger brother of Georgia Tech's Reggie Ball and Central Michigan's Raeshon Ball, Marcus is currently considering Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. All of his favorites have offered with the exception of FSU.
The second member of Stephenson's linebacker trio to earn an offer from Tennessee is 6-foot-2, 222-pound Kelvin Sheppard, who is rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com. An excellent athlete with the ability to range from sideline to sideline, Sheppard has 4.6 speed and the size to become an outstanding rush linebacker at the next level, or a run-stopper in the middle.
Sheppard reports more than 30 offers including scholarships to Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Maryland, Georgia and Florida. He recently announced LSU and Tennessee to be his co-leaders, but hasn't indicated how soon he will make a decision.
"They said I have a chance of going in and playing early," Sheppard told Scout.com's Jordan Ryan when asked about the Vols. "Plus I like the stadium and the fans."
Rounding out the linebackers from Stephenson High School is 6-foot, 210-pound Perry Riley. A striker with 4.6 speed and outstanding lateral mobility, Riley has no shortage of serious suitors. The commonality among his favorites is the SEC, as he is considering offers from LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. This one looks like it will come down to a two-team battle between the Vols and the Dawgs.
"I'll look and see how strong the football program is," he told Scout.com's Matt Day when laying out his criteria for choosing a college. "Playing time is very important too. I also want to make sure my family will able to make it to my games."
The final member of the Jaguars' fearsome foursome to garner a scholarship offer from Tennessee is defensive end Jermaine Cunningham. Rated No. 18 nationally by Scout.com and topping UT's board of speed rushing prospects, Cunningham, 6-4, 215, boasts a 4.7 time in the 40 and one of the quickest first steps in the Class of 2006. He has the frame to add easily add weight which is the main thing presently separating him from the country's elite pass rushers.
However, that lack of bulk is not keeping elite programs from courting Cunningham, as the four-star prospect currently has over 40 offers to choose from. His favorites among that far-flung field are Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Although recruiting is a competition that often contains the strategy of chess, the name of the game in Stone Mountain, Ga., is Connect Four.