Tales from the Trail

Tennessee's recruiting trail yields prospects of promise, items of interest and one spectacular swan song.

CENTER STAGE: In 2005 Tennessee reached into Mississippi and came away with the nation's No. 1 center prospect in Josh McNeil, who went on to earn All-SEC freshmen honors in 2006 and is on track to become a four-year starter.

Now the Vols are attempting to pull another out-of-state blue chipper in Sam Simpson of Lexington, Ky., who also holds the distinction of being Scout.com's top-ranked center.

At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Simpson has plenty of room for growth and should benefit from a redshirt season wherever he signs. In this writer's opinion, there's an advantage to signing a high school center rather than trying to convert a guard or tackle to the role Other true centers to excel at UT include: Bob Johnson, Lee North, John Fisher and Scott Wells.

Simpson currently favors offers from Auburn, Duke, Kentucky, Stanford and Tennessee among the many he has received. (Funny how the Blue Devils are showing up with a lot of the prospects UT is recruiting when they rarely sought the same prospects before David Cutcliffe's arrival.) More on that later.

D.C. CAB: Another 2005 prospect to strike gold for the Big Orange is linebacker Rico "The Real" McCoy. Now the Vols have returned to St. John's College High School in Washington D.C. and offered big offensive guard Pete While a 6-foot-5, 330-pound, bulldozer, who runs a 5.3 and is ranked No. 6 among the nation's prospects at his position. As a junior White recorded 59 pancake blocks while allowing no sacks. He also played some defense and posted 40 stops with a sack. The big man could play defense on the next level although he prefers offense at this point. He has also been offered by Maryland, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Florida, LSU, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Florida State. He's an excellent student with a father who used to play defensive end at Yale.

WILL HE STAY?: Knoxville Farragut offensive lineman Will Jackson was scheduled to visit both Auburn and Alabama over the weekend but postponed the trip to Auburn after weather prevented the Tigers from scrimmaging.

However he still made the trip to Tuscaloosa and replaced the Auburn visit with a trip to Georgia Tech. He was recently offered by the Yellowjackets.

"Georgia Tech was great," he told Scout.com's Andrew Bone. "I gave them 12-hour notice of me coming down, and I was able to meet with coach [Giff] Smith. I talked to coach [Paul] Johnson for a half hour. They took us around and showed us campus and the facilities. It was great. I was really impressed with Georgia Tech."

Jackson also has offers from Mississippi, Vanderbilt and West Virginia. He is scheduled to take an unofficial visit to UT's campus this week. Bama, Auburn and the Vols are all likely to offer as well.

VIRGINIA STOUTS: It's a big year for football prospects in Virginia and the Vols are involved with some of the best including No. 1 receiver Logan Heastie of Chesapeake, No. 13 corner Damien Thigpen of Manassas and No. 21 QB Tajh Boyd of Hampton. UT has offered all three and have told Thigpen, who runs a 4.34 time in the 40, he could play running back.

BAYOU MONSTER: Chris Davenport of Mansfield, La., is the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle prospect and a top target for elite programs from coast to coast. Tennessee is one of the many schools the 6-foot-3, 325-pound D-lineman is considering. When recently asked about his senior season he said a mouthful. "This past season I had a great season. I had 127 tackles, with 18 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss of 15 yards or better, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries." LSU and USC have emerged as his early favorites.

LADY'S NIGHT: Lady Vol signee Shelia Stricklen of Morrilton, Ark., saw her high school career fall one win short of the Class-5A state championship last week in a 70-63 setback to defending champ Camden Fairview, despite her record-setting effort. The 6-foot-2 Stricklen scored 45 points, hitting 13-of-25 from the field and 17-of-18 from the foul line. She also had 16 rebounds, three assists and scored all of her team's 19 points in the fourth quarter of the title tilt. After missing her first free throw Stricklen hit 17 straight. Rated as one of the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2008, Camden Fairview Coach Ronald Rogers said: "Stricklen is just at another level."


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