Former Arkansas State University assistant coach Steve Caldwell has been UT's point man in the Natural State, and he has his sights set on another quality prospect this season in defensive tackle L.T. Walker of Wynne.
Rated the nation's No. 18 player at his position by Scout.com, the 6-foot-3, 308-pound, four-star defensive tackle is a force in the middle at the high school level whose best days on the gridiron are still ahead of him. That's saying something, considering he led Wynne to a state championship as a junior with 64 tackles, five sacks and an interception despite facing an array of multiple blocking schemes designed to control him.
"I think I can do it all," Walker told Scout.com's Steve Ryan. "I am big enough and strong enough to stop the run, but I can pursue across the line, get up field and I know I am going to have to deal with the double team no matter what.
"You don't need a lot of stats to be dominate or a key player out there. If they focus enough on you, that makes everyone better and besides, I still don't think they can stop me."
A four-year starter for Wynne, Walker has learned that double teams are a way of life for a player of his size and scope. As a result he has become philosophical about it but that doesn't mean he accepts it.
""You got to be mean as hell in there or someone is going to put you on your back," he said. "You can't give them nothing, because all they want to see is you slip up just a little and then they think they've got you. I'm not giving them that, I don't care how many guys they put on me. They are going to have to work to keep me from making an impact."
That type of attitude for a player of his aptitude makes Walker a prospect of interest for college programs across the nation. Some of those schools include: Florida Sate, USC, Oregon, Nebraska and Notre Dame. However, the schools closest to his heart are also closer to his east Arkansas home.
"The same schools, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Ole Miss," told Scout.com's Yancey Porter. "They have recruited me the hardest from the start... they all three recruit me in the same way. That is why they are up there."
Walker also told Porter today that he plans to set up his visits this weekend in advance of his season opener at Searcy next Friday.
"I have already been up to Arkansas and Ole Miss a couple of times," Walker stated. "But I have not been to Tennessee yet. I think I am going to one of Tennessee's games."
UT's huge home crowds, state-of-the-art facilities and mountain setting should pose a favorable contrast to the competition. And that might just be enough to keep the Vols' winning streak in Arkansas alive.