Big Class in UT's Grasp

With national signing day two-week warning ready to sound, Tennessee is in an enviable position by having the hay in the barn and a lot of momentum heading down the home straight.

There's a big advantage to having the makings of an outstanding recruiting class already secured. That's not to say Tennessee is in a holding pattern but it does suggest the Vols are awaiting decisions from a trio of high-profile targets in No. 9 wide receiver Ahmad Paige, No. 7 safety Stefion Francois and No. 1 defensive tackle Marvin Austin.

The loss of starting corner/safety Demetrice Morley created some urgency to sign a DB that could contribute to the depth chart as a freshman. Francois, of East St. John HIgh School in Reserve, La., certainly fits that bill given his ability to play corner or safety, but he hasn't visited Tennessee and he has a visit set up to Florida State next weekend. Some make LSU his leader. He's also visited Arkansas.

The Vols have lost ground on McCoy, who favors USC, North Carolina and Florida State, and UT sources aren't optimistic about their chances at this point although they aren't prepared to run up the white flag either.

Paige has visited Tennessee and the Vols remain a viable contender for the sleek glider. He takes his last official next week to USC. Florida and Florida State are the other contenders for Paige, while Georgia has fallen off the pace. Admittedly, it would be something of an upset if Tennessee land him, but Paige had a very good visit and he is being recruited by Trooper Taylor who would also be his position coach.

Tennessee's in a numbers crunch when it comes to adding prospects. There are currently 26 commitments not counting 2006 signee Cody Pope, who sat out last season because of academic issues, but was planning to reenroll.

The Vols can only sign 25 prospects in one class but they have prospects wait until the winter semester to enroll and count against 2008 totals. There are three of UT's current commitments regarded as soft. The most notable of these is four-star linebacker Chris Walker of Christian Brothers HIgh School in Memphis. When contacted last week Walker indicated that he is still firmly committed to the Vols even though he is listening to pitches from Alabama, MIchigan and LSU.

Two other UT commitments are more problematical. Rufus Williams, a defensive tend out of Titusville, Fla., is still considering Ole Miss, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina State. Running back Daryle Veeren of Huntersville, N.C., is being recruited by in-state schools ( North Carolina and N.C. State) and is is the most likely to decommit as things currently stand.

The Vols are also battling North Carolina for wide receiver Dwight Jones who committed to the Tar Heels before the coaching change.

Two defensive ends the Vols were pursuing committed elsewhere over the weekend. Three-star prospect Miguel Chavis of Hargrave Academy pledged to Clemson and No. 21 defensive end Koutnei Brown of Charlotte announced for Alabama. No. 20 running back Ryan Houston reconfirmed his earlier commitment to North Carolina. Dual threat quarterback Joe Chaisson of Beaumont, Texas, committed to Arkansas.

UT's Class of 2007 is currently ranked No. 3 nationally behind Florida and Texas by with USC, LSU and Notre Dame rounding out the top six. South Carolina's class is ranked No. 7, Auburn is No. 10 and Georgia is No. 13.

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