Backup Weapon

Tennessee fans barely got to know Trotwood, Ohio, tight end prospect Brandon Moore before he vanished from the radar screen and landed in the 2008 recruiting class of the Michigan Wolverines.

As good as Moore would have looked in orange, he's not the only big catch in the ocean. Right next door in Springfield, Pa., is a high caliber blue chip backup weapon in the form of 6-foot-51/2, 235-pound Mark Wedderburn.

The big pass catcher, reportedly, has 4.6 speed and a 34-inch vertical leap which makes him a tough match-up for any defender. Wedderburn caught 24 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns as a junior at Cardinal O'Hara High School. He bench presses 305 pounds and squats 340. As he increases his size and strength his blocking will complement his skills as a receiver.

"I have quick feet and good concentration on the ball," he said. "I have soft hands, but love to hit people. I can take advantage of most cornerbacks and linebackers because I'm fast and tall.

"I really want to improve my blocking skills. I'm just an average blocker. I'm also working on getting stronger and improving my leg strength."

Getting a big man stronger is a lot easier than teaching a strong man to run faster and catch passes. And with his frame Wedderburn wouldn't have any problem raising his weight to 260 while retaining his speed. He has excellent upside, plus his reported 3.2 GPA further reduces any risk factor for college programs.

That's why schools such as Miami, Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, Rutgers, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Temple, Maryland, West Virginia, Clemson and Louisville have stepped forward with offers. Tennessee joined their ranks last Friday, which was the same day Moore committed to the Wolverines.

"Coach Larry Slade from Tennessee came in on Friday and so did Coach Mike Reed from North Carolina State and Coach Ron Vanderlinden from Penn State," Wedderburn told recruiting analyst Matt Alkire. "Coach Slade offered me a scholarship to Tennessee and told me about their program and school a bit. I know they have an awesome football program and have produced quality NFL tight ends in guys like Jason Witten. They're a great passing team with a really good offense and the SEC is full of talent, so I'm going to make it down for a visit this summer."

So far UT is the only SEC team listed on Wedderburn's favorites list which will help the Vols standout among the Big Ten and eastern seaboard colleges seeking his services. However Penn State, where his brother Joe played, has an early advantage and appear to be the team to beat.

That may or may not be significant. After all a week ago Moore listed his top three as Florida, Tennessee and Michigan while appearing to lean toward the challenge of playing in the SEC. By the end of the week, he was committed to Michigan, saying he always wanted to play there.

A lot of recruiting battles are won with a solid Plan-B and a good backup weapon.

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