Recruiting recap

Because he transferred, quarterback Nick Stephens didn't play high school football as a junior in Flower Mound, Texas.

He made up for it as a senior, passing for 2,602 yards and 24 touchdowns and being ranked the No. 11 overall quarterback by

Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe called Stephens a ``find'' in the quarterback class of 2006.

Nick Stephens said he picked Tennessee over Michigan, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Ole Miss – where he committed months ago – because of Cutcliffe.

``The biggest thing is, I want to work with Coach Cutcliffe and I saw how good of a teacher he can be,'' Stephens said. ``He can make me a good quarterback.''

Cutcliffe has high praise for Stephens.

``He's got a quick, compact release and he's very accurate,'' Cutcliffe said. ``He's also intelligent and strong (290 bench press).''

Stephens said he attended the Elite 11 Camp. He learned fundamentals from his high school coach, Cody Vanderford. Stephens said he's working on his quickness to improve his three- and five-step drops.

Stephens, an early commitment to Ole Miss, didn't hear from the Rebels for about three weeks. He opened up his recruiting and picked Tennessee.

Stephens, who can throw a football 65 yards, also runs track. His event: the 400-meter dash. Why the 400?

``I got into track and the coach said, `We're a little low in this event,' so I said I'd give it a shot,'' he said. ``I tested out and ran pretty good.

``It hurts. It hurts coming around that last 200. It's all mental. You've got to reach deep and go for it.''


Offensive lineman Cody Pope of San Diego gained a star when he got a call from Southern Cal.

Pope went from a three-star recruit to four stars when the Trojans made a last-ditch effort to lure him from Tennessee.

``USC came out of nowhere,'' Pope said. ``They really tried to get me at the end. But there was never a thought in my mind of going there. When I give someone my word as a man, that's it. I gave coach Fulmer my word as a man. That's it. Bottom line.''

Pope figured USC became interested after losing a recruit.

``I didn't want to go to a place where I'd feel like I was No. 2,'' Pope said. ``I want to come in thinking I'm No. 1 and try to be the best I can be.''

Pope plays basketball, where he considers himself an enforcer.

``My basketball coach said if he had the body I have, no one would want to come through the lane,'' Pope said. ``That's what I have in my head. Fouling out is something I take pride in doing. I average more fouls than points.

``If I commit a foul, I don't like those little holding fouls. It's more like a brawl. My coach said I've been given a body and I've got to use it.''


Fulmer said he thinks linebacker Dorian Davis of Iowa City, Iowa, is the sleeper of the class.

``I just love him,'' Fulmer said. ``When (defensive coordinator) John Chavis and I watched him on tape the first time, you'd have thought he was a five-star guy. He runs and hits you and makes play after play. He's got some work to do and is growing (6-1, 205) and has to learn the system, but he's a fabulous looking football player.'' gave Davis three stars. Davis had 127 tackles as a senior, 115 as a junior and he's a sprinter and hurdler on his track team.

Tennessee also thinks receiver-cornerback Stephaun Raines of Dalton, Ga., was underrated. He's played football for only three seasons. He's been timed electronically in a 4.43 and he likes to hit. He'll start out as a cornerback at UT.

The Vols like Blake Garretson of Morristown. Garretson played middle linebacker in high school, but he's ticketed for defensive tackle at UT. He's 6-3, 275 and runs a 4.65. He must adjust to the speed of the game. He has been compared to former Vol Shane Burton, who played tight end, defensive end and defensive tackle at UT and played several years in the NFL.

Another sleeper is Pope. He's a bit lean at 6-5, 270 and needs to get stronger. He'll likely redshirt.


Recruiting coordinator Greg Adkins and Steve Caldwell carried the class.

Adkins signed seven players, Caldwell five. Caldwell has been UT's best recruiter over the past six or seven years.

Here's the breakdown by coach.

Adkins: Chad Cunningham, Dorian Davis, Justin Garrett, Ramone Johnson, Darius Myers, Cody Pope and Luke Stocker.

Caldwell: Jacques McClendon, Chase Nelson, Stephaun Raines, Victor Thomas and Walter Fisher.

Dan Brooks: Lee Smith, Dustin Lindsey and Blake Garretson.

Trooper Taylor: Jarrod Shaw, LaMarcus Thompson and Gerald Williams.

Larry Slade: Brent Vinson and Quintin Hancock.

Jimmy Ray Stephens (no longer on the staff): Daniel Lincoln

David Cutcliffe: Nick Stephens


Here are a few notes about UT's recruiting class.

Three signees are the sons of former Vols. Kicker Chad Cunningham's father Rory was an offensive lineman (1978-81). Tight end-defensive end Lee Smith is the son of former offensive lineman Darryl Smith (1983-86). Offensive lineman Jacques McClendon is the son of former UT quarterback Sterling Henton (1986-90).

Tennessee signed players from 12 states but got shut out of Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina. In Fulmer's 13 recruiting classes, UT has signed players from at least 10 states 10 different times.

Cunningham has an unusual resume for a kicker. He played quarterback for four years at Dawsonville, Ga., and passed for more than 4,000 career yards. He had over 1,500 passing yards as a senior with almost 500 rushing yards. He also is dating the niece of NASCAR great Bill Elliott, known as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville.

Running back Dustin Lindsey grew up a Florida fan while good friend Brandon Warren, who signed with Florida State, grew up an FSU fan. Lindsey said he used to do the Gator Chomp at Warren while Warren did the Tomahawk Chip at Lindsey.

Lineman Jarrod Shaw is the first player from Northside High School in Lafayette, La., to sign with Tennessee. He's looking forward to playing with receiver Lucas Taylor, also from Lafayette. The two played against each other in high school.

Walter Fisher, the No. 3 junior college prospect in the nation and his conference's defensive MVP, doesn't have impressive numbers. He had 27 tackles, 11 for loss. Fisher was Tennessee's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2003. He has three years of eligibility.

Justin Garret, a native of Baton Rouge who played at two junior colleges, said his younger brother will join him at UT as a walk-on middle linebacker. Garret did not play his senior season of high school.

Offensive lineman Ramone Johnson said he can be a dominant player at Tennessee. He had 84 pancake blocks as a senior, 52 as a junior. He also kicked a game-winning extra point in overtime of the Chicago Prep Bowl championship.

Sixteen of UT's signees had at least three stars by some recruiting service.

Dorian Davis could become Tennessee's sixth letterman from the state of Iowa and only the second since Col. Gene Moeller (1951-52). Chris Benson lettered in 1989.

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