Vols Out to Snare Lions

While Tennessee's chances of scoring the Clausen Trifecta appear to be slimmer than a Kenyan distance runner, their pursuit of the prized QB prospect might still pay dividends.

Jimmy Clausen has all but eliminated Tennessee as a contender for his superlative five-star services and is likely to choose between USC and Notre Dame. (USC offered him when he was a freshman.) Yet Big Orange fan can find solace in the fact Tennessee is still in the hunt for four of Clausen's Oaks Christian High School teammates.

Included in this quality quartet are: Casey Matthews, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound middle linebacker and son of former UCLA and NFL linebacker Clay Matthews. Mike Ebbit, a 6-5, 250, defensive end and offensive lineman with the potential to play either side of the ball at the next level. Safety sensation Marshall Jones, 6-1, 190, who hits like a linebacker, runs like a corner and hawks the ball like a center fielder. Running back progeny Marc Tyler, 6-1, 210, the son of former college and pro great Wendell Tyler, who rushed for over 2,000 yards as a junior.

The competition for these elite prospects will be intense, as the Lions' program headed by Coach Bill Reddell has made West Lake Village virtual magnet for college scouts. It's hard enough to get players to leave southern California to play football in the South, especially with USC getting the lion's share of high-profile in-state talent, but the Vols do have an early start on these prospects. And sometimes it's easier to sign two prospects than it is one, when recruiting high school teammates that are considering a major change in locale, climate and culture.

In that regard Ebbitt could be a key since he lists the Vols as his co-leader along with Arizona. He is also giving early looks to Arizona State, Mississippi, Oregon, Oregon State and USC. The anchor of Oaks Christian's powerful O-line, Ebbitt has the frame and technique to play up front in college with added weight and strength, but his quickest path to PT would be on defense.

"Tennessee was the first school to offer me," Ebbitt told Scout.com's Scott Schrader. "I visited Tennessee with four or five other guys from my team and had a lot of fun there. They're close to my heart because they were the first to offer."

A prototype Mike backer in terms of size and toughness, Matthews recorded 132 tackles as a junior and returned three INTs for 107 yards. He is looking at Oregon, Stanford, Tennessee and USC among others.

Jones tallied 71 tackles (52 solo) with five interceptions in 2005, which he returned for 219 yards including a 102-yard TD. He also played wide receiver, catching 23 passes for 407 yards and three scores. He runs a 4.5 flat and clocks a 10.6 in the 100 meters. He currently has Arizona, LSU, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, USC and Tennessee as his early favorites. All have offered accept for the Trojans.

As a junior, Tyler gained 2,196 yards on the ground in 183 carries for an outstanding average of 12.7 yards per carry and 45 touchdowns. Generally regarded as the best running back prospect in the Golden State, Tyler has offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, USC and UCLA. Marc is as quick as the old man, but runs a 4.55 and is more powerful.

"Jones has great speed," Redell told Barry Bolton of BeaverFootball.com. "I call him a 'John Lynch with speed'. I mean, Jones will hit you. He's the hardest hitting high school guy I've had in 20 years...And he would probably be one of the No. 1 running backs in the state if you didn't have Marc Tyler here."

Reddell has compiled a 55-8 record at Oak Christian and has led the Lions to three straight CIF championships. He has supplied the Division I ranks with 45 prospects in his 17 years as a head coach.

Tennessee would love make it 50.


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