Vols Aim For Big Finish

Tennessee continues to lose recruiting battles, i.e. No. 28 offensive tackle Micah Kia and No. 9 linebacker Jerrell Miller, but is somehow slowly, steadily turning the tide of the recruiting war.

The recent commitment of Pasadena City College safety, Justin Garrett, gives UT a four-star athlete who, at 6-foot-2, 200 with 4.51 speed, can play corner or either safety, and even linebacker in passing situations.

Originally from Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge, La., Garrett is slated to visit Washington State on Jan. 13, to be followed by his official visit to Tennessee on Jan. 20.

He has been, reportedly, offered by Houston, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M, in addition to UT and others. Washington State might offer during his visit this weekend, which could complicate matters for Tennessee. Still when the smoke clears the Vols are expected to retain the stellar pass defender, who will remind many of former Vol Julian Battle. Garrett may be a shade slower and smaller than Battle, but he has superior strength (350 pound bench) and better leaping ability (36-inch vertical).

Garrett recorded 75 tackles with three sacks and three INTs as a sophomore at Pasadena. As a freshman at Citrus College, he recorded 88 tackles, four picks and three forced fumbles. He is expected to graduate in June and enroll at Tennessee during the second summer session. He'll have three years to play two seasons, but is expected to see immediate playing time even if it's primarily in nickel and dime packages.

The commitment of Garrett pushes Tennessee to No. 33 in the most recent Scout.com team rankings. In the SEC the Vols trail No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Georgia, No. 9 LSU, No. 14 Auburn, No. 20 Mississippi, No. 21 Alabama and No. 27 Kentucky. However UT's 3.18 star per prospect average is better than both Kentucky and Mississippi and very near Alabama's 3.22 and LSU's 3.21. With a strong finish the Vols could leap frog into the top 20 or even the top 15.

And the Vols are in position on a sufficient number of four-star prospects to boost their average significantly down the stretch. Chief among this list is No. 7 linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, No. 10 cornerback Ray Small, No. 13 defensive tackle Derek, No. 20 wide receiver Andrey Baskins, No. 21 defensive tackle Adam Patterson, No. 25 offensive lineman Ramone Johnson, No. 25 defensive end Chase Nelson, No. 30 running back Brandon Minor, No. 31 defensive tackle Aleric Mullins and No. 32 defensive tackle L.T. Walker.

Burton, Patterson, Johnson and Mullins are among 15 prospects currently slated to visit the UT campus this weekend. According to inside sources the Vols appear to be leading for Baskins, Nelson and Johnson, while strong contenders for the remainder of this group.

On the five-star front, Tennessee is hoping to land a visit from No. 1 quarterback Mitch Mustain. When this writer asked Mustain about his intentions after Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl he said: "I will take two visits on the last two weekends in January."

Pressed further about the schools he is considering Mustain acknowledged that Notre Dame, Tennessee and Alabama were all possibilities, but he refused to limit his options to those three schools for his two visits. U.S.A. Today reported that Army is an option, although it's hard to imagine a player with pro potential taking on a multiyear military obligation.

In other prospect news:

• The Vols are slated to get a visit from five-star defensive end prospect Deantwan "Peanut" Whitehead on Jan. 27, although this is likely to end as a battle between Alabama and Auburn.

• No. 6 rated offensive lineman Clifton Geathers of Georgetown, S.C., has stated his intentions to visit UT at some point in January, but has yet to schedule one. His academic status remains uncertain.

• Tennessee is a viable contender for No. 9 offensive lineman Antonio Logan-El of Forrestville, Md., who visited the Vols in December, but remains a soft Maryland commitment.

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