UT Not Cutting Corners

Tennessee isn't exactly cornering the market on a high-caliber class of corner backs, but the Volunteers are aggressively pursuing, and steadily gaining ground on, the top press defenders in the country.

Aiming to make an early impact at this critical position, the Vols are in the running for No. 1 rated Eric Berry, of Fairburn, Ga., No. 2 Ronald Johnson of Muskegon, Mich., No. 9 Marcus Gilchrist of High Point, N.C., No. 12 Brandon Paul of Tallahassee, Fla., and No. 21 Ryan Broyles of Norman, Okla.

The common component of these elite corners is speed with a capital FAST. Yes, they all have the gift for swift and the quick hips that define a cover one DB. Berry, who is the son of former UT running back James Berry, is listed at 4.35 and recorded a 4.31 at an April combine. Johnson runs a 4.40, Gilchrist runs a 4.45, Paul runs a 4.40 and Broyles reportedly clocks a 4.48.

Both Berry and Johnson are rated five-star prospects by Scout.com while the other three are listed as four-star prospects. However, the Vols aren't limiting themselves to the high-intensity competition for high-profile corners. They are also interested in several unranked prospects, and since corners are very difficult to evaluate at the high school level, there could be a couple of stars to come from this group.

Don't forget that current starter Inky Johnson was a virtual unknown coming out of high school in Atlanta, and he may be Tennessee's best cover corner on the team today. Antwan Stewart wasn't even listed among the top 50 prospects in the state of Virginia and he has started a couple of seasons at UT. Who are some of the other small name DBs that might become big surprises at the next level?

A native of Virginia, Vols secondary coach Larry Slade is back in familiar territory and has had some initial success in discovering D.J. Thomas, of Ashland, and C.J. Fleming of Highland Springs. UT has extended offers to both prospects.

Thomas, who attends Patrick Henry High School, is 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, and runs a 4.6. As a junior the cat quick Thomas compiled 1,300 yards rushing with an average of 9.8 yards per carry. He also intercepted nine passes and returned three kickoffs for scores.

The 5-foot-11, 172-pound Fleming runs a 4.45 and hails from the same high school that produced U.S. Army All American linebacker Jerrell Miller, a prospect the Vols pursued last year before he signed with North Carolina. He recorded 60 tackles and seven interceptions as a junior.

Tennessee has also extended a scholarship offer to Fleming's teammate Cris Hill, 5-11, 170, who also plays corner back and runs a 4.45 time.

The fourth Virginia based corner to receive an offer from UT is Taveion Cuffee, 6-0, 180, 4.5, of First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach, Va.

The Vols recently offered 5-foot-11, 180-pound corner Tony Logan of Piscataway, N.J., thanks to an assist from Scout.com.

"I just got an offer from the University of Tennessee," Logan told Steve Robertson of DawgsBite.com. "Coach Roper, the running backs coach, is recruiting me. He called me about two weeks ago and he told me he was interested in me. He had seen something on you guys' website (Scout.com) and he liked my speed. He only saw two minutes and wanted to see more tape. We sent out the tape and then I got the offer today. They offered me as a defensive back. I am very interested in Tennessee. I am really glad they offered me."

One of the most intriguing corner prospects the Vols have offered is Art Evans, 6-1, 175, 4.48, who has the size and skills to play either defensive back or wide receiver. As a junior at Evangel Christian School in Lakeland, Fla., Evans caught 62 passes for 1,329 yards and 16 touchdowns. On defense, he intercepted 11 passes, returning two for TDs and brought back an incredible eight punts for touchdowns. He is fully qualified with a 3.7 GPA and 19 on his ACT. Tennessee is listed as his co-leader along with Duke. He is also considering offers from South Florida, West Virginia and Ohio State.

Keep reading and we'll keep you posted on further developments in a deep corner back market.


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