The fact Tennessee has managed to maintain a well stocked stable of standout players over the years is testimony to its tradition and the resourceful work of its recruiters. It's a challenge UT's principle rivals in the SEC, i.e. Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU and Alabama don't have to contend with each year.
Despite the obstacles a nationwide recruiting campaign imposes, the Vols aren't backing away from this tried and true strategy. In fact, they appear to be navigating uncharted territory in acquiring prospects for the Class of 2007.
A case in point is four-star running back Houston Cassita of Jordan High School in the unlikely location of Sandy, Utah, which is one of seven states from which the Vols haven't tapped into for gridiron talent. If Phillip Fulmer & Co. can pull this one off they'll cross another state off their list while adding a first rate running back.
As a junior, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Cassita ran for 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns in 164 carries (6.2 yards per carry) while gaining 252 yards in receptions with five TDs in a very balanced Jordan attack. He has superb vision, cutting ability, strength and versatility.
"In my 19 years of coaching football, Houston is easily in the top five of kids I've seen," Jordan head coach Alex Jacobsen told Bradley Corbett of TotalBlueSports.com. "In my opinion he is as good as (Stanley) Havill."
Havill, a five-star back from Utah who signed with USC's No. 1 rated class in February, is regarded as perhaps the best running back prospect the state has produced so the comparison speaks volumes for Cassita's talent.
"Houston is a special talent," Jacobsen said in the same story. "He can run inside and outside. He has great cutback ability."
He is also strong and fast. Cassita bench presses 315 pounds, squats 525 and power cleans 295. He was recently timed by three track coaches at 4.5 in the 40. Despite his blue chip skills set, Cassita has a blue collar approach to football.
"I had Houston play a little D-line and linebacker for us this year," Jacobsen said. "In one game he had the game saving sack."
Cassita likes contributing to his team's success by playing defense, but he knows his future is as the of big-time tailback that can carry the load.
"I played both ways," Cassita said. "On defense I play everywhere. Wherever [coaches] need me. I don't have any defensive stats. I like playing offense more because that's what I'm best at."
Cassita also discovered he likes UT while on a recent unofficial visit to the campus.
"I went to their junior day last month and it was cool," he told Scout.com's Jamie Newberg. "It (Tennessee) is sweet down there. I like everything about Tennessee."