Tennessee Hosting Standouts

It's one of three big home visit weekends left on the 2005 slate, and Tennessee's crowd will be on show as much as the team and facilities.

Currently there are five high profile, out-of-state visitors set to attend Saturday's game against South Carolina, and it's a dead solid certainty they will be paying close attention to the type of support the Vols get from the Neyland Stadium masses during a hard times.

Translation: No 18 year-old wants to leave California, Florida or Pennsylvania to go to college in Tennessee where the fan base is fickle when the team's in a pickle.

Headlining UT's gridiron guests are a pair of teammates from Oakland, Calif., that are ranked among the top four players in the nation at their respective positions. Josh Tatum, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker, of McClymonds High School is ranked No. 4 by Scout.com. He was originally scheduled to visit during the Georgia weekend before it was reset to coordinate with the visit of Na Derris Ward, his 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end teammate who is ranked No. 3 nationally.

Tatum suffered a torn ACL early in the season which required surgery. He also missed most of his junior season with a shoulder injury. However during his sophomore campaign at St. Mary's High School he recorded 125 tackles (85 solo), 10 sacks, seven forced fumbles and four interceptions. An outstanding athlete with 4.5 speed, a 37-inch vertical, 335-pound bench press and a 525-pound squat, Tatum only needs the reps to refine his remarkable talent. He currently favors USC and California over Tennessee, Michigan and Miami.

Much of Ward's reputation is built on his blocking although he had 20 catches for 450 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. On special teams he had 15 tackles and three forced fumbles en route to earning all-city honors. He runs a 4.8 forty and has a 30-inch vertical leap. Ward currently lists Georgia as his leader with Tennessee, Florida, LSU and Arizona all getting visits. He has already visited LSU and Arizona. He's scheduled to visit Georgia on Nov. 19 and Florida the following weekend.

Jeremiah Hunter, 6-1, 200, 4.5, projects at two positions of need for the Vols — linebacker and running back. As a junior at Manheim Central High School in the Pennsylvania city of the same name, Hunter had 133 tackles on defense with five sacks and five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. Additionally, he rushed for 1,100 yards and 24 touchdowns after compiling 1,500 yards and 21 TDs on the ground as a sophomore. Ranked No. 19 at LB by Scout, he benches 300 pounds, squats 450 and power cleans 285. Hunter fits UT's mode of the ideal outside linebacker, who can attack off the edge, stop the run or play pass coverage. The Vols are competing against Georgia, Florida and Iowa for Hunter's services. The four-star prospect visited Iowa last weekend.

Coming to Knoxville from Saint Augustine, Fla., is No. 23 rated cornerback Jacques Rickerson, who checks in at 5-10, 180, and runs a 4.43. Last fall, he had 62 tackles with eight INTs and two defensive touchdowns. He also scored a pair of special teams TDs and blocked three punts. He caught four touchdown passes and ran for another score to earn second team all-state honors. He averaged 22 points per game in basketball for St. Augustine High. The chase for Rickerson appears to be an All-SEC affair between Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

At 6-5, 305 pounds Jim Barrie is the biggest visitor to UT this weekend in stature if not status. A three-star offensive lineman he has no shortage of big names in hot pursuit including Florida State, Michigan, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Notre Dame in addition to the Vols. Barrie, who runs a 5.4 and has excellent quickness, is fully qualified with a 3.7 GPA.

Tennessee needs to make a strong impression to close ground on these topflight prospects. The strong support of Big Orange fans will do a lot for the Vols chances both on the field Saturday and in the future.

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