Raiding Arizona?

While there are an unusually high number of quality football prospects in Tennessee this year, few of them are offensive linemen; a fact that has forced Phillip Fulmer's staff to range far from home in search of the building blocks for UT's future offense.

The Vols got off to a fast start in fortifying their future front five by signing prospect Darris Sawtelle of Bloomfield, Mich, who is ranked No. 17 at his position nationally by Scout.com. The 6-foot-51/2, 290-pound Sawtelle is the only four-star prospect among Tennessee's 10 current commitments as well as the only O-lineman.

If Tennessee adds another top 25 offensive lineman, it looks like he'll have to come from Arizona. UT is still a player for No. 7 ranked Kristopher O'Dowd (6-4, 310, 5.0) of Tuscon, who is also considering Ohio State, USC, Arizona, Penn State, UCLA and Miami. He lists the Buckeyes and Trojans as his co-leaders.

The athletic O'Dowd bench presses 420, squats 550 and power cleans 330 pounds. The five-star prospect owns a 30-inch vertical and is an outstanding run blocker. O'Dowd has Tennessee in his top five and an official visit to Knoxville is on his fall agenda. A good season will dramatically increase UT's chances with this big-time talent.

Tennessee is a stronger contender for Javario Burkes of Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, who is ranked No. 22 among offensive linemen by Scout.com. Burkes matches up quite favorably to O'Dowd. He hasn't maxed out in the bench for a while but he works out with 275 and he squats 445. At 6-6, 320 he's a little bigger than O'Dowd and he's just as athletic. Burkes boasts a 28-inch vertical and has very long arms. He can dunk a basketball and averaged 20 points and 11 boards per game as a junior for the Moon Valley varsity. He also shot an astounding 67 percent from the field.

"I'm very lucky to have really long arms," Burkes said. "I think that will help me a lot. My athletic ability is definitely a strength too. Like every high school player, my weakness is that I tend to get lazy at times. I need to work on that a bit."

The Vols were on Burkes very early, but have plenty of company with 42 offers currently on the first team all-state player's table. His early leaders are Arizona State, Georgia, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, Tennessee and USC. He doesn't have a favorite.

"Tennessee was also one of the first schools to recruit me and offer me," he told Scout.com's Allen Wallace. "I remember things like that. They have a high-powered football program that's pretty decent."

Burkes shows no signs of growing weary of the often taxing recruiting process or of making a decision anytime soon.

"It's exciting, but I don't want it to take from my season, because it's the last season I am going to be here," Burkes told Steve Ryan of BigRedReport. "I'm enjoying it, though, and it's going to be tough to choose a school, but I know I have a lot of great choices in front of me. It's just going to take time to figure it all out."

What is Burkes looking for in a college?

"I am looking for a good school environment," he told James Hale of Sooner Illustrated. "I am looking for a place where I feel real comfortable. I want to try to go into sports medicine so that will be a factor. I will just have to take my visits and see how I feel about things at that particular school."

Burkes, who lived in Montgomery, Ala., until age 11, said distance wouldn't be a factor in his decision.

Oddly enough the battle for this Arizona standout may boil down to an SEC battle between rivals Georgia and Tennessee.


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