Another Houston on Horizon?

Tennessee pulled the trigger on an offer for monster running back Ryan Houston recently, and is now in a full fledged fire fight with some big-time programs for the North Carolina native's king sized services.

In the middle of the May evaluation period, the Vols decided they had seen enough and decided to extend an offer to the 6-foot-2, 250-pound pile driver. That was enough to affirm UT's interest and elevate the Vols in the eyes of Houston whose stock has risen sharply during the month of May.

"I guess some teams didn't think they were recruiting me hard enough," Houston told Scout.com's Don Callahan. "N.C. State they jumped into the mix, they text me everyday. Tennessee they jumped into the mix. Clemson definitely jumped into the mix. Miami, they're in the mix, too. All those schools and (North) Carolina and Florida are my favorites."

Other notables that have offered Houston but aren't in his six pack of favorites include: Louisville, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Michigan and South Carolina.

Houston played some at defensive end as a junior at Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., but his forte is as a power runner. Playing at 275 pounds, he rushed for 1,910 yards and 34 touchdowns to lead Butler to a 10-3 record and the state quarterfinals in 2005. He has since shed some weight and increased his quickness. He projects as a single back or fullback although some schools are recruiting him as a tailback. Whether he has the speed to play that position in UT's offense is uncertain, but he has good hands and the athleticism to be a lethal weapon at fullback. Scout.com's Jamie Newberg offered this report on Houston.

"Houston certainly has the size and he runs low, making him compact and powerful and very tough to bring down. He also has some nimble feet and sometimes he can surprise you with his shiftiness, especially for a back of his size. And he's athletic. Defenders sometimes go low, diving at his ankles and he'll just hurdle them. Speed isn't his strength but for his size he certainly has very good football speed."

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.

Houston was in Knoxville for "junior day" and the Vols hope to host him at their senior camp and later for an official visit.

"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."

Much like Jerome Bettis, Houston has the ability to pop through a hole and finish off a run. He runs down hill all the time and that makes him a dangerous back in short-yardage situations when teams that stack the line to stop him. Bulter head coach Mike Newsome had the following to say about his four-star prospect.

"He's got the size to go through a hole that he needs to go through. He's got great vision – he sees the hole exceptionally well. He's able to change direction and make people miss. You don't normally see that on a kid that's 240 pounds, but he's a heck of an athlete. He's going to be able things do things that a 180-pound ‘back can't do, and he's going to be able to do a lot of things that a 180-pound ‘back can do."

Inside the 5 yard-line, Ryan Houston might just be the best back in the Class of 2007.


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