Biggest Prize on the Board?

Given Tennessee's need to get better in the offensive line, to bounce back with a big recruiting season and restore UT football tradition on the field of play, Darris Sawtelle of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield, Mich., just may be the biggest prize on the Volunteers' crowded board.

The 6-foot-5.5, 285-pound, Sawtelle is a five-star prospect and a formidable force in the offensive front, given his superb combination of size, speed, strength, technique and intensity. He bench presses 365 pounds, squats 525 and runs a reported 5.1 time in the 40. He plays on both side of the ball in high school and could do the same in college, although his exceptional quickness and balance make him a natural for offensive tackle.

Signing a five-star prospect from within the state is tough enough, a reality that is underscored by UT's failure to land either Patrick Turner or Michael Oher, who were the only five-star prospects the Volunteer State has produced in the last two years. However the Vols could have an "in" with Sawtelle, if not an advantage.

"I grew up a fan of Tennessee for family reasons," Sawtelle told's Chris Pool. "My grandfather, Darris McCord played for the Vols and he went on to have a 13 year career with the Detroit Lions."

McCord, who was from Franklin, Tenn., played for Tennessee in 1952, 1953 and was a team captain in 1954. He played on General Robert R. Neyland's last UT team and two years under Harvey Robinson.

"My grandfather obviously wants me to go to Tennessee but he doesn't push it on me." Sawtelle told Pool. "The only school my grandfather has forbid me from looking at is Alabama. He doesn't like them a whole lot."

Growing up most of his life in Michigan, the Wolverines and Spartans are squads Sawtelle is taking a close look at, and he seems to prefer Michigan.

"Michigan and Michigan State are my home-state schools," he said. "Michigan is more of a hometown school for me because it's closer. USC is a school that has been very successful lately."

The list of schools interested in Sawtelle is growing each day and he is also considering offers from Arizona State, Ohio State and Nebraska in addition to Michigan, Michigan State, USC and Tennessee.

Luckily, Tennessee appears to be battling Michigan for the lead on Sawtelle, and he's looking to make a decision by the end of summer so he can concentrate on his senior season and helping Brother Rice (12-2 in 2005) defend its Division 2 state title.

"I'm looking to give an early commitment." Sawtelle told Pool. "All this college stuff is flattering and great but you have to remember that I still have got to play another season for Brother Rice.

"I've got teammates and coaches that are counting on me and I don't want any distractions. I just feel really blessed with all this. It's been my goal since I was little to play football in front of thousands of fans and it's a dream come true."

When asked about his strengths, the humble Sawtelle, who is fully qualified with a 3.0 GPA, simply repeated what he has been told.

"I've been told that I'm aggressive." Sawtelle said. "I've been told that I like to hit people and put them on the ground. I've been blessed with good coaching my entire life.

"I don't want to sound cocky but I've heard that I'm polished and I believe that I am. I work really hard and study game films. I pick things up quickly."

It's still too early to say where Darris Sawtelle will sign, but it's not too soon to say where he won't be signing. At least if Papa McCord has any say in the matter.

"My family is fully supportive of whatever decision I make," Sawtelle told Don Hoekwater of "But my grandfather gets a little upset when he sees the mail from Alabama. He told me that all my family and friends in Tennessee would disown me if I go to Alabama. I also get my name from him, and he said I would have to give that back."

If Sawtelle signs with Tennessee his grandfather can rest easy — until the Third Saturday in October.

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