Chasing Speed Freaks

In addition to an abundance of surf, citrus, time shares and sunshine, the state of Florida produces a slew of speed prospects, and this year's crop of high school blazers is no exception.

Consider four running back prospects Tennessee is currently recruiting from the state down under who sound as if they could have came from the same football factory.

Albert Gary, 5-10, 176, of North Marion High School in Citra, Fla., is listed with 4.5 flat speed. As a junior Gary rushed for 1,100 yards averaging over seven yards per carry. He also caught 21 passes as a slot receiver including a couple of touchdowns. In addition to his play on offense he started at safety on defense and returned kicks for the Colts. The Vols have offered Gary a scholarship as well as extending an invitation to attend senior camp this summer. He is also considering nearby Florida along with Auburn, Florida State, South Carolina and West Virginia. Although he is a bit undersized to be a feature back at this point he is being recruited by most schools for his offensive skills. At the Combine in Jacksonville, he turned a 4.50 in the 40, a 4.54 short shuttle and a 33-inch vertical.

Jermaine Thomas, 6-0, 190, of First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., is another 4.5 sprinter who is regarded as one of the most explosive talents in the state. He rushed for over 900 yards and 12 TDs as a junior.

This is how his First Coast coach Fred Culver describes Thomas' speed: "The thing about Jermaine is he's just so fast. His speed is unbelievable. He has exceptional speed, and I've clocked him in the 4.3's (in the forty yard dash.) People don't believe it, so I always say consistent 4.4's. When you see him on the field, he plays at a very fast speed like he's a 4.1 or 4.2 kid. Jermaine is special. He can catch the ball. He's got good ball skills, and when the ball's in his hands, he's unbelievable. He's a difference maker. He's another-gear guy."

The cast of competitors for Thomas' signature includes: Florida State, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Maryland, N.C. State, Purdue, Minnesota and Tennessee which have all offered.

Jeff Demps, 5-10, 180, of South Lake High School in Groveland, Fla., is listed with 4.35 speed. As a junior he amassed 1,761 yards and 21 touchdowns in 170 carries for an average of over 10 yards per run. He may also be the state's top sprinter with a time of 10.4 in the 100 meters and a 21.73 in the 200-meter run. Demps has offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Florida International. He lists his top five as Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Arkansas and possibly Virginia Tech.

"I had two SEC defensive coordinators tell me recently that his first few steps and his speed remind them of Devin Hester at that age," South Lake head coach Charles Weems told's Mike Bakas. "He's a hard worker, too. He's always in the weight room, benches over 300."

• MARCEL ROSE, 5-10, 170, of Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Fla., who is the cousin of Notre Dame linebacker Maurice Crum, Jr., and has reportedly clocked a 4.4 flat in the 40. Probably the most versatile prospect of this Fab Four he could play a couple of spots on each side of the ball at the next level.

"I'm fast," he told Jonathan Jolley of GamecockAnthem, com. "I have great speed, I'm versatile, and I'm really just a playmaker. I had a good season last year playing corner, running back, and receiver. I had 690 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards with 10 total touchdowns. Then I had like 40 tackles and 2 interceptions."

Rose has Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee at the top of his favorites list with Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Mississippi also under consideration.

This is only a partial list of fleet Florida football players the Vols are interested in acquiring. We'll cover some other standouts in coming days.

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