C.J. Piques Vols' Interest

It takes size, strength, instincts, quickness and physical toughness to play linebacker in college, but at Tennessee a linebacker needs all of those traits as well as the ability to fly around the field.

Given that criteria it's not unusual for the Vols to find some of their most intriguing linebacker prospects playing running back or defensive back in high school. Kevin Burnett, Eric Westmoreland, Eddie Moore and Raynoch Thompson are four recent examples of players that switched to linebacker after arriving at UT and went on to excel in the NFL. Current linebacker Adam Myers-White was an all-American safety in high school. Ryan Karl was an All-State running back.

A prospect that fits that mode to a T is Carlton Peake, a 6-foot-2, 209-pound safety/running back from Madison High School in Trout, Ohio. Peake played his sophomore and junior seasons at Meadowdale High School in Dayton, before transferring to Madison for his senior campaign. He made the move on the heels of a stellar fall in which he recorded 109 tackles, picked off six passes and ran for 11 touchdowns to earn All-Area honors. He played running back on a part-time basis.

The Vols came through with an offer over the weekend, joining such notables as Boston College, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia as Peake's current list of favorites. All seven programs have offered the rising star. He has also been offered by North Carolina, Ole Miss, Louisville, Wisconsin and Cincinnati among others.

"Boston College told me that they offered today," Peake told Scout.com's Greg Powers recently. "They told me that my offer was already in the mail, and I should be getting the papers any day now.

"I also talked to Tennessee, and they told me that they will be putting an offer on the table for me."

The surge of offers corresponds with Peake's peak performance at the Nike Combine in Louisville, where most scouts rated him the top defensive back on hand. Tennessee had coaches on hand and came away impressed after Peake was the only DB able to cover Chillicothe (Ohio) wide receiver Chris Givens. With 4.46 speed he can close ground in a hurry, and hit like a ton of hammers.

"When he (Peake) jams a receiver it's over with, you're not getting off the line," Scout.com combine coach Don Cox told analyst Bob Lichtenfels. "Out of all the combines we had I never had anyone jam like that."

Cox, a former draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys, believes Peake can play in the secondary at the next level, although he could easily grow into a linebacker. That might make him an ideal fit for Tennessee's defensive system since the strong safety functions much as a linebacker. He could also be a great match-up for big slot receivers.

"I like him at strong safety," Cox said. "He is fast enough to cover receivers and he is big enough that when you come down the alley he'll lay you out. You could probably use him some at corner and he would not hurt you."

At the Nike Combine in Columbus, Cox showed he can change directions quickly, recording a 4.06 time in the shuttle. He had a 34-inch vertical leap and performed 16 reps of 185 pounds in the bench press.

Peake could be an invaluable addition to a Volunteer defense that values versatility almost as much as it does speed.

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