A Lot on the Line

If it's what's up front that counts most on the gridiron, the Volunteers don't have to go much further than their own backyard to find what they most need this recruiting season.

Tennessee has offered three offensive linemen from the Volunteer State and are actively recruiting a few others. The Vols have also offered a pair of in-state tight ends, bringing the total of big blockers to five. And it's only April. Here's a breakdown of the OL field along with the contenders.

• AUSTIN LONG, of Memphis Briarcrest Christian, is ranked No. 7 among an outstanding class off offensive tackles for 2009. The four-star talent checks in at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds and was named All-Region as a junior. He has the long arms, quick feet and good technique college coaches covet. He already counts offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Florida State and North Carolina in addition to UT and many others. Long has been busy on the recruiting trail in recent weeks with trips to Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, North Carolina, Duke, Florida and Auburn. He was in Knoxville for a visit in February and is probably the second best Tennessee prospect (behind only wide receiver Marlon Brown) this year. Long is being very methodical in his approach to choosing a school, and it will be this summer before his list is trimmed.

• ALEX BULLARD, 6-3, 270, of perennial pigskin power Brentwood Academy is ranked No. 26 nationally by Scout.com and is climbing. An athletic big man with the versatility to play tackle or guard. That makes him a young man in demand and so it's not surprising he's been offered seven SEC school already including: South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss. He also has offers from Duke, Illinois, Stanford, North Carolina State and Connecticut. Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oregon are seriously interested and expected to join the aforementioned.

He travels to South Bend next weekend for the Blue and Gold game and went to Bama's spring game last weekend. He has also made unofficial visits to Auburn, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. He told Scout.com's Chris Layton he is most familiar and, by way, most comfortable on The Hill. "I've actually been up there the most," he said. "I went to a game this year and went to their Junior Day. I really like Tennessee. It feels like home. Of course it's an in-state program."

• AUBREY PHILLIPS is the least known of the in-state O-line prospects the Vols have offered, but he's also the biggest at 6-foot-6, 340 pounds (before breakfast). He'll be a four-year starter at Memphis Booker T. Washington this fall. Washington posted a 9-2 record in 2007. Another prototypical weak-side tackle with the physical skills to protect the QB's backside and the discipline not to jump offsides. In addition to UT Phillips has offers from Duke, Georgia Tech, Memphis and Penn State. The big lineman carries a reported 3.85 GPA but may have been overlooked early because of his inner city high school's lack of tradition. However Tennessee has known about Phillips for a while and were the first school to offer him a scholarship. He attended summer football camp at UT last year and has formed a favorable opinion of the program. "I like their staff because all of them are very friendly," he told Yancy Porter. "I have gotten to know Coach Fulmer really well. We talk on the phone all of the time. They were the first school to offer me."

Some of the other in-state linemen the Vols are evaluating: William Judson, 6-7, 290, 5.3, of Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Will Jackson, 6-4, 280, 5.10, of Knoxville Faragut, Jeb Lenhart, 6-4, 295, of Pigeon Forge, Wesley Johnson, 6-4, 250, of Nashville MBA, who has offers from Kentucky and Vandy, Kevin Revis, 6-4, 270, of Rhea County and Courtney Easterwood, 6-3, 275, of Memphis Christian Brothers.

Will Jackson, who has offers from Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and West Virginia, visited Knoxville for Junior Day and has taken invited visits to Georgia Tech, Alabama and Auburn this spring. The Tide and Tigers are expected to make offers.

Will Tennessee?

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