Big N.C. Back to Visit Vols

After being blanked in the Tar Heel State this year, the Vols are aiming high in 2007, and hoping to haul some of Carolina's top football talent back across the Smokey Mountains.

Near the top of their long list of prospects is 6-foot-2, 240-pound tailback Ryan Houston of David W. Butler High School in Matthew, N.C., who is planning to be in Knoxville on Saturday for Tennessee's annual Junior Day.

The battering ram of a running back has impressive 4.58 speed and rushed for 1,910 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior to earn all-conference, all-area and all-state honors. He added another 200 yards in receptions. That type of production from a big back with good speed has big-time suitors lining up to make their pitch.

Among the schools to extend early offers are Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Houston went to football camp at Michigan last summer and has been to Junior Day at North Carolina and N.C. State this year.

Houston was also a standout at defensive end although his value as a power back seems to have him destined to carry the ball on the next level. And that's the position he prefers.

"All of the schools have been talking about running back, but I don't know," he told recruiting analyst Steve Williams of . "Once you get to college they can move you wherever they want to. But they're all recruiting me for running back right now, and I want to play running back. I feel like that's the position I'm best at so I don't know why anyone would want to change me."

Given his size, strength and versatility as a receiver out of the backfield, Houston could be an ideal candidate to play fullback or in single back sets. The Vols lose starter Cory Anderson after the 2006 season are eyeing candidates to fortify the position. That type of role might appeal to Houston especially considering offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe's history of success with such players. Among the most prominent players to fill that role under Coach Cutcliffe was another North Carolina tailback, Shawn Bryson.

"The most important thing for me is going to be how I feel around the players," he said when discussing his criteria for choosing a school. "I've got to be there for the next four years so I want to be somewhere that's going to be like home. And another big factor is whether I'm going to play or not."

Houston is currently ranked a four-star prospect by and is generally regarded one of the top five prospects in North Carolina in what is shaping up one as an outstanding year for prospects in the state.

Another North Carolina prospect expected to be at UT's Junior Day is Durham cornerback Tyree Bullock, who plays at Hillside High School. There are no less that five D-I football prospects at Hillside this year, including five-star receiver Greg Hill, and UT has expressed an interest in all of them. Landing Bullock would be a step in the right direction for the Vols.

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