Vols Gaining Ground on Florida DB

Jacksonville Ed White High School football star Demetrius "Dee" Webb may well stay in-state and play for one of the big 3 Florida, Florida State, Miami but Tennessee is closing ground in the chase for the nation's No. 3 rated cornerback like Justin Gatlin with a tail wind.

The Vols recruiting efforts, in what has been identified as a need position for the Class of 2003, got a serendipitous boost last week when Webb was in Knoxville to compete in the Junior Olympics. During his stay Webb and the rest of the JO competitors got a tour of the campus and it's athletic facilities. He came away highly impressed by what he saw of UT's campus, but the most memorable part of the trip was Tennessee's fan support.

"I liked it," he said of the omnipresent orange and signs of support in K-town. "It was real interesting the way they had it all fixed up. I could tell it was a football town. Every store you go in and everywhere you go... there's Tennessee. I never saw nothing like that. I was really excited about that, to see the town really cared about the football team and tries to fire them up."

As a result of the widespread support Tennessee has become a contender for Webb, 6-1,185, who is rated one of the nation's top 40 prospects.

"I'm considering Tennessee more after seeing how the town is about the team," he said. "I'm going to visit Tennessee, but I'm not sure when yet."

Webb said he hopes to schedule his visit during a football weekend so that he can get a taste of the game day atmosphere and see what Neyland Stadium looks like, and sounds like, when it is filled by fervent Vol fans.

During his Junior Olympics competition, Webb reached the semifinals in the 100 meters with a 10.7 clocking which is two tenths of a second off his personal best time of 10.5. He also competed in the four-by-400 meter relay, but his team was disqualified for a lane violation.

"I like the track at Tennessee," Webb said. "It's really fast."

The versatile Webb played tailback, cornerback, safety, quarterback, receiver and returned kicks last year at Ed White High School, amassing 820 yards rushing to go with 40 receptions and 18 touchdowns. On defense he intercepted 10 passes returning two for scores. Webb, who runs a sub 4.4 time in the 40, benches 315 pounds and has a 36-inch vertical leap, is known for his physical style of play and rib-rattling tackles.

"That's how I grew up," he said of his talent for tackling. "Our program has always been physical, you can't go through our program without being physical. I got pushed around when I was little and now it's time for me to push other people around."

Webb could play anyone of four positions at the next level, but his value as a potential lock-down corner with outstanding size and speed will be too great for most defensive coordinators to ignore.

Although Webb couldn't have contact with UT coaches while he was on campus, he did get a fleeting glimpse on Tennessee's freshmen practicing.

"I just peeked over there," he said of the practice session. "I just walked up on the practice field not knowing where I was going. I just happened to see some helmets over there so I walked on over. I saw them a little bit, but I had to go to my event."

The glimpse of football was enough to further pique Webb's interest about life as a Volunteer. He admits that he has leaned toward the notion of playing in-state but not for the reasons many might think. It's not so much a case of having a childhood favorite as it is growing up with the belief that the national championship runs through Florida, and he wants a chance to compete for the title during his college career.

Interestingly, Webb is being recruited by former Florida offensive line coach Jimmy Ray Stevens who now coaches tight ends and tackles at Tennessee. The man who designed and refined the engine that powered Steve Spurrier's fun-and-gun offense can relate to Webb's perspective. He can also tell him that there is outstanding football outside the Sunshine State.

And Webb has already discovered there's a place where The Orange is revered more than it is in Florida.

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