Ahmad is All Vol

Tennessee's passing game got a big boost today with the announcement that wide receiver Ahmad Paige of Sterlington, La., has chosen the Volunteers over USC.

A big-time playmaker, Paige posted some impressive high school numbers. As a junior he caught 45 passes for 1,208 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 26 yards per reception. As a senior he faced more double coverage along with man and zone combinations designed to limit his impact. Despite the extra attention Paige had 41 catches for 863 yards and 12 TDs. He also returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score. The slender sprinter was equally impressive in last month's U.S. Army All-American Bowl while facing some of the nation's premiere DBs. He laid out to make one reception and exhibited his elusiveness turning a short pass into a sizable gain. He runs a 4.4 flat and demonstrates the ability to catch the ball in traffic.

"Basically it's concentration," he said of making the difficult catch. "People don't drop the ball because they can't catch, they drop the ball because they don't concentrate. In an all-star game the caliber that I was in you've got to concentrate on what you're doing. You get a lot of distractions, a lot of things to get caught up in. You've got to pay attention to what you're doing. You don't want to get caught looking around because there's always a camera watching you.

There are also the sharks lurking in the secondary for the chance to strike you in front of the camera. Fortunately, Paige developed his ability to absorb the punishing blow and make the catch.

"I know one time when I first starting playing varsity football, I was scared," he said. "One time I went over the middle and didn't see this free safety, but the guy hit me and I didn't see him coming. But it didn't hurt at all. It looked bad but as far as it felt it didn't hurt. From then on I wasn't afraid to go across the middle. If you pay attention to what you're doing when they hit you your body will just relax. Basically, you're going to get hit anyway."

Paige has a 37-inch vertical to go up and the body control to come down with the vertical catch. His transcendent talent also invites some flattering comparisons.

Rated the nation's No. 9 receiver by Scout.com, Paige chose Tennessee over a long list of offers that included finalists USC, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Florida State. He originally committed to FSU in the fall but after coaching changes decided to reopen the recruiting process.

He had an outstanding official visit to Knoxville for the Alabama game, and his relationship with Vol assistant Trooper Taylor was instrumental in choosing Tennessee. He also wanted the opportunity to play for a winning team in front of massive crowds.

"The thing about Tennessee is I like the atmosphere and how the players all work together," he told IT. "It was like a big family. And it's hard to disagree with 109,000. The fans are crazy. The atmosphere is crazy for games. It can be the loudest stadium in the country."

And Ahmad Paige is Tennessee's biggest recruiting surprise on an outstanding signing day.


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