On A.J.'s Trail

He has sprinter's speed but ignores all offers of track scholarships. He's a physical player but he doesn't do defense. He's an outstanding athlete but doesn't have a natural position on offense. He's also one of the most coveted high school football prospects on the planet.

He is A.J. Alexander, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound package of big-play dynamite, who already has over 20 scholarship offers from major football programs, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Norte Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Tennessee, which comprise his early favorites.

As a junior at Altoona Area High School, Alexander played primarily at quarterback, gaining over 1,000 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns and adding another 400 yards and four scores through the air. He projects as a wide receiver at the next level, but could better be described as a playmaker.

"I'm not really a receiver," Alexander said in a recent interview with Kevin Kinder of BlueGoldNews.com. "I'm more of an Antwan Randel-El type of guy. I can run it, and I can catch outs and short passes. I'm not the kind of guy who is going to run down the field and catch a lot of passes. I'm not a vertical guy. If I fit in at receiver somewhere, it's probably as a slot guy.

"I do want to play offense. I like having my hands on the ball."

There's certainly no shortage of capable college coaches willing to entrust the ball to Alexander's able hands. Such trust has much to do with A.J.'s winged feet which were able to turn 40 yards in 4.31 seconds at the Scout.com combine in Pittsburgh. He competes in track at Altoona, covering 100 meters in 10.5 seconds and 200 meters in 21.5 seconds, but has not plans to run track in college.

"I don't even read the letters I get for track," he revealed to Scout.com. "I have great speed. I'm fast and move well. Once I'm in the open field I'm gone. Also, I'm great one-on-one and can usually beat anyone. Everybody wants me for offense and a lot of schools are saying they'll use me like Reggie Bush. I've played running back most of my life and would like to play that in college."

Alexander would have to grow into a running back role but could get on the field early as a receiver. It would also be easier to isolate him again a single defender from the slot.

"I still want to improve my route running and my hands catching the ball," Alexander said. "I need to get stronger."

He has good strength for his size with a 280-pound bench press and a 410-pound squat. More impressive is his 42-inch vertical which makes him much taller as a receiver than his 5-10 height. He also has good lateral quickness as underscored by his 4.13 time in the short shuttle.

Getting the fleet Alexander out of the Keystone State may not be as hard as many would imagine. He has expressed a preference to play in a warmer climate which is reflected in his schools of interest. He was in attendance at last year's Georgia-Tennessee game, and would like to make official visits to both schools. He received an offer from Tennessee on Monday.

"I got an offer from Tennessee on Monday," he told Scout.com national editor Allen Wallace. "I'm really happy about that. I like that team a lot. I asked my coach (Phil Riccio) to call Tennessee, Miami and LSU and he sent them all tape. Tennessee was the first to come back with an offer (for wide receiver)."

Alexander's size, speed, athleticism and versatility will remind Tennessee fans of another Pennsylvania native, former Vol and current NFL player Mark Jones. UT running backs coach Kurt Roper is recruiting Alexander for the Vols.

"I've talked with Tennessee coach Kurt Roper quite a bit," he told Allen. "He told me I'd have a chance to play early because of my speed - definitely as a kick returner at least. And depending on my performance, maybe as a receiver."

Coach Roper may be just the guy to lasso A.J. for the Volunteers.

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