RECRUITING: QB Quest Continues Quietly

After signing three high-profile quarterbacks in the last two classes, a signal caller isn't high on UT's list of recruiting priorities, but that doesn't mean the Vols aren't at least considering their options.

Brent Schaeffer's transfer to junior college, Rick Clausen's impending graduation and Jonathan Crompton's shoulder surgery shatters any illusions of security at that critical position, particularly in light of losing Eric Ainge and Schaeffer to injuries in 2004. A repeat of such misfortune this season would leave Bo Hardegree and walk-on Jim Bob Cooter to carry the QB load. Without signing a quarterback prospect in the Class of 2006, the Vols would be left with only three scholarship players on the roster.

The quarterback quandary presents a classic conundrum in which two QBs are sometimes too many and three are sometimes not enough. Signing a premiere task master with Ainge and Crompton on board isn't a viable option. However bringing in a good prospect with upside is.

To this point Justin Burke of Lexington Catholic High School in Kentucky is the only quarterback prospect the Vols are known to have offered. However the four-star QB, who was rated No. 6 at his position by, recently committed to North Carolina State and is no longer in play.

Tennessee is still recruiting a couple of three-star signal callers with excellent size and good potential that hail from opposite coasts. First is 6-foot-6, 210-pound Cameron Ely of San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, Calif. Then there is 6-foot-7, 200-pound Justin Roper of Buford, Ga.

In nine games last season Ely completed 133 of 215 passes (61.9 percent) for 1634 yards and 13 touchdowns vs. only four interceptions. He has 4.8 speed and a 26-inch vertical leap, but his most attractive attributes are his arm and his brains. Ely carries a 4.4 GPA and scored a 1690 on his SAT. He throws a nice deep ball with an easy overhead motion. He needs to add size, strength and experience to become a starter on the next level.

"My coaches have told me that I've got a real strong arm and I can throw the ball deep and accurately," he told "I've also got good feet. I want to work on making my upper body a little stronger and gain some more weight."

Ely is waiting for his first Division I offer but is being actively recruited by Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Iowa, Oregon and Tennessee. Evidence that Ely fits UT's offensive system can be found in the fact he is being recruited by Stanford QB coach Walt Harris, the man responsible for installing Tennessee's current offense some 20 years ago.

Offers aren't a problem for Roper who has scholarships on the table from Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, Oregon and Tulane among others. As a junior Roper led Buford to the Class-AAA state title game passing for 1500 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Roper runs a 5.06 time in the 40 and has high jumped 6-6. He carries a 3.4 GPA and scored an 1130 on his SAT. His superior game experience and proven success make him a less risky prospect than Ely, but his upside may not be quite as intriguing.

The main thing that favors Roper over Ely for Tennessee is the fact Roper appears to favor Tennessee over the other contenders even though the Vols have yet to offer.

"I'm not making any choices yet," Roper told Matt Day of recently. "If Tennessee were to offer though, that could be a top school for me. I like a lot of things about their program."

The Vols may not offer any quarterback this season, but any injury there this fall could have them ready to audible.

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