Rae Sykes, 6-4, 240, 4.7, of Alcoa, is well known after starting three years for the perennial Class-AA power. Lesser known, but growing in stature each day is Alex Watkins of Haywood County High School in Brownsville.
All you really need to know about the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Watkins to realize why scholarship offers are pouring into the Haywood athletic office is that he runs a 4.6 time in the 40 and recently clocked an 11.2 time in the 100 meters as a member of his high school's track team.
"In today's game, everybody is wanting to put pressure on the QB, and that is what he does the best," Haywood County head football and track coach Bart Stowe told Scout.com's Yancy Porter." We play in a league where you run the ball a lot, but he still put up a bunch of sacks last year. He led our league in sacks for the third straight year. He is pretty much the best player day in and day out from around this area."
Watkins actually finished his junior season with 15 sacks and 90 tackles, an astounding total of stops for a defensive end. His efforts netted him first team all-region honors and a place on the Jackson Sun's All-West Tennessee team.
Watkins is working on getting bigger, faster and stronger, but with a 315-pound lift in the bench press, a 475-pound squad and the speed of an outside linebacker, he has a lot to work with. Consider all of this from a player who doesn't turn 17 until July.
"You have to have more than one person to block him," said Coach Stowe. "Alex has the strength to go through you, and the speed to go around you. He is in the same mold as what you see on Sunday's."
Although he could play tight end at the next level, it's Watkins potential as a pass rusher that truly excites college scouts.
"He is just a good young man. He is an enjoy to work with. A coach's dream. Alex is always doing the little extra things to make him a better player. I do not know if you know this, but he runs track for us too. I am also the coach for our track team. I saw this kid in 8th grade. I knew we had ourselves a special person, a difference maker, back then. Alex has not disappointed me. He is the leader for our football and track programs. He studies hard in the classroom, and he has a lot of good folks around him."
Watkins has passed his ACT and is fully qualified. He has the proverbial complete package and is on the verge of becoming a legitimate star.
If the Vols can somehow bring Sykes and Watkins together at UT next fall, they could meet at the quarterback the next four years.