Seriously Seeking Siblings

If any college football team knows how problematical it can be to recruit siblings it's Tennessee, but the Vols are taking a different approach this year in hopes of signing a couple of blue chip baby brothers.

UT has struck out on such noteworthy baby brothers as Eli Manning, Chris Leak and Jimmy Clausen. (Just kidding about that last one since J.C. is still in the middle of his junior season.) However the subject comes up often and rates high on UT fans' panic meter. The issue most recently arose as a sidebar to the quarterback competition at Tennessee this fall.

And few would be surprised if the latest and, reportedly, greatest Clausen chose not to follow older brothers Casey and Rick to UT. Perhaps he'll prefer Orange County to Big Orange Country, or South Bend to the South end zone of storied Neyland Stadium. Maybe he opts for East Lansing over east Tennessee or, perish the thought, Gainesville over Knoxville.

But there will probably be plenty of time in 2006 to talk about signing day 2007, and if there's not well there's nothing to worry about anyway. The speculation about Jimmy C just underscores how naturally gun shy UT fans are when it comes to recruiting signal caller's younger siblings. In 2005, Phillip Fulmer and staff are shaking up the family tree by recruiting younger brothers of stars at other schools, hoping that the road less traveled will lead a couple of million dollar baby brothers to The Hill of Tennessee. Another twist to this thickening plot is that neither of these brothers are quarterbacks, but instead a pair of the highest rated linebacker prospects in the nation.

Marcus Ball, 6-0, 205, is the brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball, but he plays linebacker and running back at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga. Ranked No. 8 among the Class of 2006's linebackers, Ball posted 122 stops as a junior including 14 for minus yardage with seven sacks and a forced fumble. Ball has the 4.55 speed needed to play running back, but his instincts and toughness translate better to defense.

Georgia Tech appears to be out of the running for Marcus in what is shaping up as an SEC battle of the elite with Auburn, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee listed among his finalists with ACC entries Florida State and Virginia.

The Vols are also pursuing 6-foot-2, 220-pound Marcus Sims of North Florida Christian in Tallahassee. He is the younger brother of Ernie Sims, who was the nation's top high school football prospect in 2002 and now plays linebacker for Florida State. Marcus, ranked No. 18 at linebacker by, is a dead ringer for his older brother and stars on both sides of the ball at NFC just like Ernie did. He runs a 4.52 time in the 40.

: As a junior the younger Sims ran the ball 141 times for 1,154 yards and 17 touchdowns. At linebacker he recorded 84 tackles, 10 for losses with two sacks. He also blocked a couple of kicks on special teams.

The competition for Sims is intense with Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Miami and USC fighting for the inside track. Sims' situation is different than Ball's since he lives in Tallahassee and both of his parents graduated from FSU on athletic scholarships.

Of course that won't discourage the Vols from continuing to recruit him. After all they know how unpredictable younger siblings can be.

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