Tennessee Turns Paige

Tennessee's search for an impact wide receiver took a turn for the better with recent word that a five-star wide receiver from Sterlington, La., has selected the Volunteers as one of his six finalists.

Ahmad Paige, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound first team All-State player, surprised many close observers when the UT he named among his favorites was Tennessee and not National Champion Texas, which offered him in March. It's also a positive sign the Vols are enjoying a robust recruiting campaign that could become remarkable with a solid 2006 season.

Most importantly, it puts Tennessee in contention for one of the nation's top talents at the Vols' position of greatest need. As a junior Paige, who runs a 4.4 flat 40 time, caught 45 passes for 1,208 yards and 17 touchdowns. His average of 26 yards per catch and TD every 2.8 catches underscores his big-play ability.

"Ahmad has a lot of the skills coaches are looking for," said Sterlington High head coach Dell Ashley. "He is fast, tall and he has good hands. The kid has great speed and great character. He is just an exceptional athlete."

At 165 pounds Paige will need to add bulk if he's to get off the line of scrimmage at the next level, but he has decent strength. He bench presses 235 pounds or 43 percent above his body weight. He squats a reported 300 and lifts an impressive 250 in the power clean. However, it's Paige's ability to beat defenses deep that best defines his high-octane game.

"I do a lot of fly routes," he told Bryan Munson of BigRedReport.com. "We have a route, a post, a deep post. I go ten yards and I cut all the way across the field. It's kind of like a drag, but real deep. The quarterback rolls out and he just throws it real deep. It works every week.

"The minimum I get every time I run it is about 40 yards. I run that route about twice a game. I know that one game I had two catches for 122 yards. In that game, I dropped two touchdown passes too. They were two long passes and would have easily put me over 200 yards."

Paige hasn't attended any camps or combines to this point because he was still recovering from shoulder surgery he had in January.

That may have actually worked in Tennessee's favor because Paige didn't even list the Vols among schools he was considering in May. Of course, there's still a lot of work to be done and some mighty competition to beat out for his solid gold services.

"USC, Florida State, Miami, LSU, Tennessee, and Florida those are my schools right now," he told Carson Shaw of Scout.com. "The rest I've kinda pushed off to the side. I'm really serious about those schools."

Location could play a factor in Paige's decision which puts LSU in position of team to beat. However, relating to his coaches and team chemistry are other criteria that could sway Paige. Fortunately, the Vols have ace recruiter, wide receiver coach and former Tulane assistant Trooper Taylor on the case.

"The main thing would be how the format of the team, the chemistry, how the players get along," he said. "Location is not really a factor. If I do go away, I want it to be family oriented, where I could just walk in and talk to a Pete Carroll or someone like that."

Again in a fortuitous note: Family is Phillip Fulmer's middle name.

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