Hale of a Prospect

Whether UT ever becomes a serious contender in the Shayne Hale Sweepstakes is purely a matter of conjecture, but it's a matter of record that Tennessee holds the distinction of being the first on a long list of big-time programs to offer the Pennsylvania super backer.

The Vols extended that offer on Sept. 1, the day before opening their 2006 gridiron campaign against nationally ranked California. That fact alone underscores Hale's high value, and it says a lot about the importance UT places on recruiting. Kudos are also in order for an astute evaluation and assertive action on the part of Fulmer & Co.

It remains to be seen if being the first to offer will have a lasting impression on Shayne Hale. Undoubtedly, it's a point UT will try to parlay into a visit. And when you the competition which includes Florida, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin. At last count Hale had 25 scholarship offers in writing and several other verbals.

The reason so many schools are so interested in the Monroeville, Pa., prospect so soon is so clear. He checks in at formidable 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and runs a 4.55 time in the 40. Playing primarily at outside linebacker for Gateway High School as a junior, he tabulated 105 tackles (58) solo, 13 for negative yardage with five sacks, four forced fumbles and two recoveries. His efforts earned him first-team status on the Associated Press All-State squad as well as a spot on the prestigious Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review "Terrific 25" teams.

Hale models his game after seek-and-destroy linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens. Make no mistake there's only one Ray Lewis, just as there's only one Lawrence Taylor and one Dick Butkus, but Hale certainly has the index of ability, instincts and intensity to emulate Lewis' pursue-and-punish style of play.

"I'm very athletic and I give 110 percent effort," he told GoBlueWolverine.com. "I'm really good with my assignments as well. I love to hit. I try to just punish the ball carrier. I'd like to improve my leg strength though to drive more after the initial contact."

As proficient as Hale is on the stop, he's even better on the go. He possesses the combo of size and speed required to play a hybrid role of rush linebacker, however most schools project him as an enforcer in the middle. He is also a capable defender in pass coverage further limiting opponents' options.

"My strength is definitely my speed," he told Jeff Baumhower of IrishEyes.com. "I don't think any running back in my conference can outrun me, because I have the speed and the determination to catch them and take them down. I get out there every day and say, ‘I will not be beat.' Every day in the weight room I tell myself, ‘I will not be beat'. I just go out there with a positive attitude, prepare my teammates, have fun, and attack the football."

The chase for Hale figures to be protracted as he plans to focus on the recruiting process after his senior season. By then this Gateway Gator may have 100 offers, but Tennessee will always be his first.

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