Vols A Finalists For Nation's No. 1 CB

If you're in need of a cornerback (and who isn't?) there's no better place to begin your search than Cleveland, Ohio, the home of rock and roll and the nation's premiere cover corner prospect Donte Whitner.

A shutdown corner with physical toughness to match his scintilating skills, the 5-11, 180-pound Whitner is one of the most sought after defensive prospects in the nation. Student Sports rates him No. 5 overall in their top 100 prospects, while The Insiders list him No. 19 overall, No. 3 in the midwest and No. 1 at cornerback.

His attributes are numerous. Donte Whitner was timed at 4.43 in the 40 at the Nike Camp, but regularly cracks the 4.4 barrier and has posted a personal best 10.4 in the 100 meters. He has a 36-inch vertical leap and a 4.22 time in the shuttle. His ability to transition in open field is tremendous and he hits like a freight train.

"I think my strength as a player is being able to cover people and just getting to the football," Whitner said. "I do have a nose for the football, I like to hit. I know a lot of cornerbacks don't, but I can come up and make that big hit."

Whitner's talent for tatooing opponents has earned him the nickname "Lights Out" and he not only loves football, he lives it. This summer he went to 11 different football camps on 10 different campuses including Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, Michigan State, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Cal and Georgia Tech. He also made the Nike Camp at Michigan where he was named MVP.

"I tell you the truth, I don't really have a life outside of football and school," Whitner said. "Everything I do revolves around football and school. During the week I practice or go to a personal trainer and lift. During the weekends I'm either playing a game, watching a game or watching tape of a game."

Whitner is fully qualified and carries a hefty 3.40 grade point average at Cleveland Glenville High School. He plans to major in business management in college.

"Donte is a very serious guy," said his head football coach Ted Ginn. "He's very much aware of what he needs to do and where he's going in life. That's important for a kid that age. He understands the total business of being a student athlete and he has to win all the time, whether it's being on the football field or in the classroom. He's just a winner all the way around."

As a junior, Whitner played cornerback, safety, wide receiver, running back and every phase of special teams. He finished the season with 54 tackles, four interceptions and scored 12 touchdowns including TDs via interception return, punt return, kick return, pass reception and rushing.

Through seven games this season he has put up even more impressive numbers.

"Right now I'm having a great season," he proudly proclaimed. "I have 14 touchdowns. I have one interception for a touchdown of 56 yards, I have six special team touchdowns, one kickoff return for 80 yards, I caught a pass on a faked punt, I blocked a punt for a touchdown and I have one punt return for a touchdown."

He also has 57 tackles playing almost exclusively at cornerback on defense. He has two interceptions one which he returned for a touchdown. He has forced four fumbles and took one fumble recovery to pay dirt. On offense, Whitner has caught 22 passes for over 500 yards and has picked up about 200 yards running reverses.

"He's a shutdown corner, a Rod Woodson type guy," Ginn said. "He's the No. 1 corner in the country and one of the best to ever come through the Cleveland area. That's a blessing. He's the best and he can back it up."

Whitner, who is being recruited for Tennessee by line coach Mike Barry, enjoyed his trip to Knoxville this summer enough that he's planning to return for an official visit after football season. Ohio State, Michigan and Southern Cal are also expected to get official visits.

"The coaches (at UT) told me that players from Ohio had done very well at Tennessee so I checked it for myself," he said. "It's true there are a lot of players from Ohio that did very well at Tennessee.

"A lot of players are tricked. They go far away from home and they don't get to play. I like it that Tennessee was straight with me about players from Ohio."

In the Cleveland area alone, the Vols have recruited such receiving standouts as Anthony Hancock, Tim McGee and Anthony Morgan all of whom went on to play professional football.

Now Tennessee would like to add a first-rate pass defender to that list.

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