Alexander the Swift

If A.J. Alexander decides to bring his big-play ability to Tennessee, it will underscore the importance of perseverance in the recruiting game and separation speed in the passing game.

The Altoona, Pa., wide receiver was considered a shoo-in for Penn State before pulling the surprise trigger and declaring to Pittsburgh only 11 days ago. He later recanted that commitment after the Panthers' receivers coach Aubrey Hill accepted a job with Miami.

That reopened the recruiting process and Tennessee's consistent interest in Alexander paid off when the nation's No. 27 wideout named the Vols as one of two finalists for his services.

That's the good news.

The bad news: Florida State is his other finalist and he is currently on his official visit to Tallahassee. Conversely, his official visit to UT was nearly three months ago on Oct. 27. That's another major hurdle for the Vols to overcome, but they have already taken several in stride and have not be detoured from their task.

The reason is simple. If Alexander signs to play for the Big Orange he immediately becomes Tennessee's fastest receiver, adding an element of verticality that was missing from the offensive attack in 2007.

While he projects as a wide receiver on the next level he could play corner or running back. He played all three positions as a senior and was Altoona Area High School's starting quarterback as a junior. He also returned punts and kickoffs.

He accounted for 50 touchdowns during those two seasons. As a senior, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and 23 touchdowns, caught passes for 400-plus yards and six TDs, threw for over 100 yards and a score and added another 600 yards in returns with a pair of TDs.

"I have great speed," he said. "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."

Wherever Alexander lines up the 5-foot-10, 180-pound, four-star prospect will be first and foremost — a topnotch play-maker.

Blessed with true sprinter's speed and gridiron grit, he is a football player with the gift for swift. Alexander was clocked at a blistering 4.31 in the 40 at the Combine in Pittsburgh. He also runs track where he has posted personal best times of 10.5 in the 100 meters and a 21.5 in the 200 meters. analyst Bob Lichtenfels filed this report on Alexander.

"A.J. is one of the fastest players in the nation having been timed consistently in the low (4.3's). By necessity he plays quarterback in high school, his future will be at wide receiver or cornerback. Alexander is a play-maker, he has great vision, once he gets a crease he is threat to score from anywhere on the field. He accelerates quickly and has elite type of elusiveness. He has an extra gear which most high school players don't have."

Alexander, who will remind UT fans of another Keystone State standout Mark Jones, reportedly bench presses 280 pounds and squats 410. In addition to stretching the field he can walk the skies with his 42-inch vertical jump.

It might mitigate in the Vols' favor that FSU has already committed five-star JC receiver Corey Surrency and four-star wideout Avis Commack, while UT has verbals from a pair of three-star prospects.

For sure, A.J. Alexander would be an ideal fit for a new offense that figures to feature a lot of spread formations. Undoubtedly, UT's coaches will make these points.

After all, to the swiftest goes the race.

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