Family ties

When Phillip Fulmer talks about the "family atmosphere" in Tennessee football he's speaking almost as much literally as figuratively.

Four of the 16 prospects the Vol coach landed on National Signing Day earlier this week are related to former or current UT players.

Fullback Ben Bartholomew (Nashville) is the grandson of former Vol blocking back Sam Bartholomew and the younger brother of former Vol fullback Will Bartholomew. Carson Anderson (Florence, Ala.) is the son of former Vol linebacker Terry Anderson and a nephew of former Vol defensive end Charlie Anderson. Aaron Douglas (Maryville) is the son of former Vol offensive lineman David Douglas and former Lady Vol basketball player Karla Horton-Douglas. Receiver Rodriquez Wilks (Smyrna) is the brother of current Vol cornerback Marsalous Johnson.

Bartholomew, a 6-3, 235-pounder, is's No. 8 ranked fullback nation-wide. He also starred on defense for Montgomery Bell Academy, recording 19 tackles for loss and 6 sacks as a junior.

"He could play a lot of places for us," Fulmer said. He can play fullback. He could fill the tight end need. We may look at him on defense. He's a smart, tough guy with a great family. He's a great student. He has a lot of history here with the university. His grandfather played here and his brother was the fullback on our national championship team.

"Ben was a state champion in track, a state champion in wrestling and a state champion in football. That should tell you a little about his pedigree as a competitor."

Douglas is no stranger to state championships, either. He won four of them in football – going 60-0 in the process – and another one in basketball during his four years at Maryville High School.

Rated the No. 16 tight end prospect in America by, the 6-7, 250-pounder recorded 45 catches for 632 yards and five touchdowns as a senior in 2007.

"He comes from a quality program at Maryville High School under George Quarles," Fulmer noted, "and he has great genes – David and Karla being former Vols and Lady Vols."

As for Carson Anderson, he's a 6-3, 275-pounder who is rated a 3-star recruit and the No. 52 guard prospect in America by

"I coached Charlie, Carson's uncle, when I was a graduate assistant here, and we became close then," Fulmer recalled. "Terry followed Charlie while I was spreading my wings a bit at (Wichita State in) Kansas.

"The family and I have become very, very close over a period of time. Carson committed early and never wavered, even though he had a lot of pressure from the Alabama and Auburn people."

Some folks believe a prospect with family ties to a program will play even harder than a prospect who does not. Phillip Fulmer is among these folks.

"I think it really helps," he said. "When it's fourth and one, and you've got to make it or get the stop, I think that helps a lot ... to have that deep-rooted feeling you're playing for."

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