Bumper Crop Forecast

You know it's a good year for football prospects in Tennessee when the Vols have already extended eight offers before the May evaluation period has even begun, and have another 16 or so in-state players worthy of strong consideration.

After years of expanding their recruiting territory throughout the continental U.S.A. and beyond, the Vols appear to be taking a more provincial approach to the procurement of pigskin prospects. Whether this shift is due to a change in philosophy, an upswing in the talent pendulum or the rising cost of fuel is a matter of speculation. That doesn't mean the Vols won't continue to comb the country for prospects — as the commitment from No. 5 wide receiver Le'Ron Stokes of Northeast High in Philadelphia indicates. However the advantages of meeting as many needs at home as possible are understood.

Clearly a strong case can be made for signing natives of the Volunteer State to the Volunteers. An early look at UT's potential starting lineup shows there are dividends to be had by staying close to home. UT's offensive line will have two in-state starters — Jacques McClendon and Ramon Foster from east Tennessee. Starting wideout Austin Rogers is from Nashville and tight end Jeff Cottam is from west Tennessee. Chattanooga's Kevin Cooper has the inside track at fullback.

On defense both starting tackles are from Tennessee with Demonte Bolden and Dan Williams from Chattanooga and Memphis respectively. Elix Wilson is another Memphis product expected to start at linebacker while Knoxville's own Dennis Rogan has emerged as a star this spring at cornerback. He is also likely to retain the return specialist role he earned as a true freshman. At some point in the season Britton Colquitt should return to regain the starting punters job he's held the last three years.

That's 10 starters from Tennessee and there are also key back ups that are contending for serious playing time i.e. Marcelous Johnson, Walter Fisher, Chris Walker, Chris Donald, B. J. Coleman and Nick Reviez. UT's Class of 2008 featured in-state signees such as No. 16 tight end Aaron Douglas, No. 8 fullback Ben Bartholomew, No. 75 wideout Rodriguez Wilks, No. 49 tackle Montario Hughes and No. 30 offensive tackle Preston Bailey. Marlon Walls played his senior season across the border in Olive Branch, Miss., but played his first three seasons in Memphis. Then there's the highly anticipated return of Aloca star Brandon Warren who played his freshman season at Florida State.

In total six of UT's 19 signees were from Tennessee which is a larger percentage than normal. And the 2009 Class could feature as many as 10 or more from Big Orange Country.

To this point the Vols are known to have offered No. 2 wideout Marlon Brown of Harding Academy in Memphis, No. 7 offensive tackle Austin Long of Memphis Briarcrest, No. 11 cornerback Eric "Flash" Gordon, Memphis Kingsbury running back Hunter Gabriel, Zach Rogers of David Lipscomb in Nashville, Brentwood tight end Thad McHaney, Knoxville Catholic tight end Daniel Hood and Memphis Washington offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips.

This week we'll be taking a look at these and other prospects from Tennessee that can make this a recruiting year with a distinct down-home flavor.


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