Whether the pigskin pendulum swings back to the Vols come February 2007 may well depend on what transpires during October's border battle between the Vols and Dawgs. However, it can be fairly stated that Phillip Fulmer & Co. have positioned the Vols to take full advantage of a reversal of football fortunes.
An intriguing aside to this recruiting tale regards a pair of defensive backs that happen to be the top Georgia prospects of mutual interest for UT and UGA this year. Eric Berry, of Creekside High School in Fairburn, is rated the nation's No. 1 cornerback prospect by Scout.com. He's also the son of former UT starting tailback James Berry. Then there's No. 8 rated safety Morgan Burnett, of North Clayborn High School in College Park, who is the brother of former Bulldog starting DB Cap Burnett.
Most Big Orange fans are familiar with Berry because of his father, his combine clocked 4.35 time in the 40 and his No. 1 status at cornerback.
Burnett, 6-2, 190, is a different type of player with less speed (4.64) and more experience. He's actually started at safety in addition to quarterback, whereas Berry has played almost exclusively at quarterback. An excellent athlete, who plays basketball and competes in track, Burnett recorded 100 tackles and five interceptions as a junior. The four-star prospect looks like the type of player that could grow into a strong safety, and is an ideal fit for UT's press, pound and-pursue defensive scheme.
"He has good size and speed for the safety position," said Scout.com's Jamie Newberg. "Burnett can support the run very well and he can line up in the box and provide support from deep in the hole. Once he reads run he finds the ball very quickly and shows good fundamentals in tackling. Burnett plays the pass well too and is the guy you want as the last line of defense. It also helps Burnett that he plays quarterback because it gives him a great understanding of the safety position and what an offense will try and do."
Burnett's connections to UGA are undeniable and the Bulldogs figure to be the team to beat. In addition to his brother, who is an assistant coach at North Clayton, his head coach is the father of former starting signal caller D.J. Shockley. However he insists he's "open" and has no favorite.
"I like them all," Burnett said. "I like Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, South Carolina and Ole Miss. My brother played at Georgia and I feel real comfortable there with the coaches. But like I said, I am open.
"Coaches from Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama, and Florida have been in contact with me recently. All the coaches seem pretty cool."
And they are all in hot pursuit of Morgan Burnett.