While much attention has been focused on Tennessee¹s recruitment of North Carolina star signal caller Chris Leak, there are indications the Vols would like to sign as many as three quarterbacks if the QB quality equals that quantity.
The interest in Leak is understandable since his brother C.J. Leak is already enrolled at UT and the strong-armed siblings have expressed a vibrant interest in playing on the same college team.
The younger Leak, 6-1, 209, is generally rated one of the top three quarterbacks in the country and one of the top 10 players overall. He is on the verge of breaking national passing records for career yards and touchdowns entering his senior season at Independence High School in Charlotte N.C.
As a junior Leak completed 296 of 450 pass attempts for 4,541 yards and 57 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions while leading the Patriots to their second consecutive Class 4A state championship and undefeated season. Leak has paced Independence to 36 straight victories in the past three seasons. He passed for 4,544 yards and 51 touchdowns as a sophomore and was named the
nation¹s sophomore of the year in 2000 by Student Sports magazine. He won the magazine¹s junior of the year award nationally for 2001.
Leak has passed for 10,452 yards and 121 touchdowns in two full seasons as a starter and needs 42 touchdowns and 4006 yards as a senior to become the career leader in those two categories in the history of high school football. He needs just 385 yards to become North Carolina¹s all-time leader for career passing yards.
Although Leak is taking dead aim at these national passing records, he is more concerned with winning a third straight state title and helping Independence set a new mark for consecutive victories in the state.
Leak¹s achievements are even more impressive when you consider that he won¹t turn 17 until Dec. 20 and that he has maintained a 3.6 grade point average in the process. An outstanding athlet, Leak runs a 4.5 time in the 40 and bench presses 280 pounds.
Many have already placed Leak into the Vols ledger because his brother is at UT and he has consistently listed Tennessee as his leader. Leak reiterated that position to this writer in an interview last night for an upcoming feature in Rocky Top News, but also stated he plans to visit both Florida and Notre Dame, if not other programs.
While there is a little doubt that Leak is a top recruiting target for the Vols at quarterback, he¹s not the only QB being pursued by UT. Among the other signal callers the Vols are chasing are California gun slingers Kyle Wright and Tommy Grady.
Wright is rated equal to Leak by many analysts and the two actually roomed together at the recent Elite 11 camp held in California. Wright, 6-4, 185, from Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif., is blessed with 4.6 speed, excellent footwork and a rifle right arm. He passed for 3,015 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior earning all-American honors.
Grady, 6-6, 210, hails from Edison High School in Huntington, Calif., where he threw for 2,791 yards and 33 touchdowns as a junior with only three interceptions. Rated one of the top 10 quarterbacks nationally and one of the top 62 players overall, Grady doesn¹t have the athletic ability of Leak or Wright, but is as mechanically sound as any high school signal caller in the country. Grady¹s height makes him an ideal pocket passer and his touch is sublime.
Both Wright and Grady are interested in the west coast schools in addition to Tennessee and Miami. The seriousness of their interest can be ascertained by the fact that both are planning on making unofficial visits to Knoxville sometime in the next week. Casey Clausen¹s success coming to UT from California has piqued both players¹ interest level.
There also appears to be mutual interest between UT and a pair of high school quarterbacks here in the south. JaMarcus Russell, 6-5, 215, out of
Mobile Williamson High School is rated among the top five QBs nationally and among the top 31 players overall. Blake Mitchell, 6-4, 185, out of LaGrange, Ga., is an excellent drop-back QB who threw for 2,086 yards and 23 TDs as a
junior. LSU and Georgia are among the chief competitors for each of these southern talents. And, of course, Alabama and Auburn will go to the mat to retain Russell¹s services.
Signing two of these top-notch passers will be difficult while inking three would seem highly improbable, but there is every indication the Vols would like to do just that. We¹ll leave our readers to conclude what these intentions say about UT¹s current crop of quarterbacks.
The guess here is that the Vols want to secure several candidates in case Clausen makes himself available to the NFL Draft next spring and James Banks turns out to be better suited for wide receiver. C.J. Leak¹s status is also iffy since it¹s been two full seasons since he¹s seen game action.
A lot can happen between now and signing day 2003, but don¹t be surprised if Tennessee doesn¹t use up to 15 percent of its available scholarships on high-caliber quarterbacks.