In a recent interview for a Rocky Top News feature, Daniel Lincoln revealed that he expected to compete for jobs as a place kicker, punter and kickoff specialist. He is rated the nation's No. 4 place kicker by Scout.com and won the field goal competition at the Scout.com/MSL Combine in Miami that featured the top kickers in the country. That performance dramatically elevated his stock and helped offset a lack of activity, playing for a struggling Forest Hills High School, where he made 8-of-11 field goal attempts over his junior and senior campaigns.
"I went to three combines," he said. "I went to the MSL Combine in Miami and I went to the Nike Combine at FSU. The one in Miami was just for kickers and they had the top 50 there. I went to that and won the field goal competition. After that is when I started to get a lot of stuff from different schools. It really gave me a lot of exposure and got my name out there. The ball really started rolling after that point."
Lincoln didn't even begin kicking until near the end of his freshman season at West Port High School. He reached the end zone on the fly with the second kickoff he ever attempted that year. As a sophomore he made 11-of-15 field goals at West Port before deciding to transfer to Forest High School as a junior for academic reasons. He made a field goal of 52 yards as a junior and split the uprights from 49 yards out this season. His only miss was on a block. He has kicked field goals of 67 yards off a tee in practice and 62 yards off the ground. He also averaged 43 yards per punt despite having four punts blocked.
"Through the recruiting process we talked about all three, punting, place kicking and kicking off," Lincoln said. "Coach Stephens and I, and Coach Fulmer haven't talked about specifics. I just like having the opportunity to come up there and competing for all three jobs. They've got some great kickers up there. They've always had great kickers. I'm just to go up there and work my butt off to get a job next year up there. I'm coming up there to compete and get those other guys better and contribute to the program, contribute to the team."
Lincoln is good candidate to redshirt next season with James Wilhoit playing his senior season and Britton Colquitt returning as the starting punter. Returns, turnovers and coverage have been the biggest problems UT has had with its kicking game this season, although Colquitt has struggled some with consistency as a freshman.
Lincoln made his official visit to Tennessee last weekend, his first trip to Knoxville, and came away impressed.
"It was a very successful trip," he said. "Both of my parents were there. My mom was very impressed with the football facilities, as was my dad. They liked the academic facilities and that's huge for me being a student/athlete. My goal is to graduate with a quality degree and if the NFL presents itself as an option I would like to pursue that. My priority is getting an education and trying to help the program win some rings. That's the place to do it. It really is."
• Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton was among the offiical visitors at last weekend's homecoming activities. According to sources he had an "excellent visit" and was particularly impressed with UT's receivers. His father, who is on faculty at NYU, liked the academic support system Tennessee offers its athletes. Hazelton, who is from Staten Island, NY, is enrolled at Virginia Military Academy this year. He visits USC this weekend and Miami the following weekend.
• After his Oct. 29 visit to USC, No. 2 ranked running back LeSean McCoy has dropped UT to the bottom of his list of favorites and will not likely take a visit to Knoxville. Look for the Trojans to get richer in offensive weapons when McCoy makes his decision.
• Speaking of the Trojans, they also lead for the services of Los Angeles running back Stefon Johnson, who is ranked No. 3 at his position by Scout.com. Tennessee remains among a long list of also rans, none of whom have secured a visit at this point.
• Coffeyville Community College linebacker Walter Fisher, who committed to Tennessee last month, was also in Knoxville for his official visit last weekend.