Will Vell Be a Vol?

Tennessee's whirlwind courtship with Cleveland, Ohio, quarterback Arvell Nelson could conclude in a shotgun formation wedding next fall or it could go down as a late fall recruiting fling.

Much depends on how his date with the Iowa Hawkeyes goes this weekend, but if he was to make the decision today Tennessee could well be in top.

"I had a good time there," he said of his visit last weekend. "I liked that everybody was very nice. And that stadium is huge. I got to see all the facilities and the campus. It was a lot of fun.

"I don't have a time frame for deciding. Tennessee is right there at the top of the list as far as me coming there. I visit Iowa this weekend. I don't know how long it will take me to decide after that."

The longer Nelson wrestles with his decision the better it might be for UT, since Iowa coaches have had more time to develop a relationship with the Glennville High School standout, who is rated No. 24 nationally at his position by Scout.com.

Nelson, who was hosted on his visit to Knoxville by wide receiver Jayson Swain, expresses strong admiration for Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, and he likes the Vols offensive scheme.

"My meeting with Coach (David) Cutcliffe went well," he said. "He sat down and talked about my position if I come there. He talked about the offense and how I would be a good fit. They like my mobility and my arm."

Nelson, who is called Vell, says he's currently closer to 6-foot-5 than the 6-4 he measured last spring, and he weighs 180 pounds. Getting bigger and stronger will be one of his first goals to prepare for Division I play. Because of that he might be a year away from ready, but it's interesting to note that his size is very similar to what LaMarcus Russell measured out of high school three years ago.

Nelson owns good straight-line speed (4.76). More importantly, he's quick and elusive with the ability to throw on the run. His style is similar to that of another signal caller who was underrated coming out of high school.

"My style is like Byron Leftwich," he said of the former Marshall and current Jacksonville quarterback. "I move in the pocket to buy time, see the field well and throw the ball downfield."

After missing five games as a junior due to injury, Arvell Nelson made a name for himself during the May evaluation period for his assortment of passing skills. Interest in the signal caller intensified during a standout senior season in which he stayed healthy and passed for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns while leading Glennville to a perfect 12-0 mark, before losing in the regional finals.

Tennessee's interest in adding a quarterback appears to correspond to the problems Eric Ainge has experienced this season, and the fact Jonathan Crompton is coming off surgery. Losing Clausen to graduation adds to the need because it leaves only Ainge with college game experience. The need for three quarterbacks is further underscored by the 2004 campaign in which the Vols lost its No. 1 and No. 2 QBs to injuries, clearing the way for Clausen to take over late and lead UT to a Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M.

Last season's QB crisis at UT has made the Vols a more viable option for prospects, that may have been discouraged by the competition before the campaign unfolded.

Nelson, who plans to major in sports management and took his ACT exam last Saturday before his departure for Knoxville, has eliminated Michigan State and North Carolina from his list of favorites, although both schools made offers. Wisconsin is still a remote possibility but this looks like it will come down to Iowa or Tennessee.

The Vols were recruiting No. 5 signal caller Isiah Williams of Chicago, but he reconfirmed an earlier commitment to Illinois this week, and never visited Tennessee. There's a lot of excitement about Mitch Mustain but if he leaves Arkansas, Notre Dame seems the more likely destination.

It appears Tennessee's best shot of signing a quality signal caller in the Class of 2006 is for Vell to become a Vol.

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