Vols Make C.J. Spiller Cut

With eight elite teams in an apparent deadlock at this point, it looks like the chase for speedy running back C.J. Spiller will be a thriller.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound, five-star prospect from Union High School in Lake Butler, Fla., is rated No. 4 among the nation's tailbacks by Scout.com, a ranking that is reflected by the prestigious pack of pigskin programs in hot pursuit. Those schools include: Florida State, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Miami, Michigan, Tennessee and USC.

C.J. Spiller is a speedster deluxe, who recorded the fastest 40 times of any prospect at the winter/spring series of Scout.com combines over the last two years — a blistering 4.35.

He rushed for 1,415 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior at Union, averaging an impressive 11.6 yards per carry. In a local preseason kickoff classic last month, he rushed for 51 yards in seven carries and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. He saw limited action in the season opener against Madison County due to a strained calf muscle, but still gained 29 yards and scored two touchdowns in seven carries. His ability to see and hit a hole almost instantaneously makes him a threat to go the distance anytime he touches the ball.

"I'm fast. I have great speed and vision," Spiller told Scout.com. "I'm really tough too. People compare me to Clinton Portis because I hit the holes hard and can explode like he does. I want to improve the mental aspects of my game and have better preparation. I also need to get bigger so I can break more tackles and be more physical."

Up about two weeks ago Tennessee was a mere spectator in the Spiller Derby, but the Vols have closed a lot of ground thanks to the work of Phillip Fulmer, ace recruiter Trooper Taylor and other staffers. Now that they've been named a finalist the next trick is to get a visit.

"All of the coaches at these eight schools have already contacted me this month and they're all recruiting me pretty hard," Spiller told Scout.com's Allen Wallace. "I know that I'm looking for a good church home that I can get involved with that's around the campus of the school I end up committing to. I'm also looking for a school that will offer me some great academics and a great coaching staff."

He also dispelled the notion that he's sure to stay in the Sunshine State.

"I'm not a lock for the Florida schools out here, and I know a lot of people might be thinking that, but I'm really interested in all of these programs," he told Wallace. "I might be able to get out to games at Miami, Florida and Florida State easier because they're only a drive away, and I will go to some of their games this season, but that doesn't mean that that's going to be where I end up wanting to sign."

Spiller has already made unofficial visits to Florida and Florida State and plans one for Miami later this year. That might help open up some official visit slots for the out-of-state contenders.

"It's a lot easier to get out to these Florida schools for me because I can drive to them," he added. "But it takes a little bit more effort and money to get on a plane and fly out to some of those other schools in my list."

A solid student with a 3.5 GPA, Spiller is fully qualified. Interestingly, he told Scout.com's Mike Bakas that, unlike most top prospects, depth charts won't be a determining factor in his decision.

"You shouldn't let that affect your decision," he said. "I figure wherever we go, we're gonna have to compete. I can't let one guy affect the decision where I spent the next four years of my life. I'm going to where I feel most comfortable, no matter what young backs are there."

That's further good news for a Tennessee squad with three freshmen behind senior starter Gerald Riggs.

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