Vols a Finalist for Top 15 LB

It's a good thing Nigel Mitchell-Thornton is a powerfully built, 6-foot-2, 228-pound Will linebacker with broad shoulders and a muscular physique; otherwise getting his name to fit on the back of his jersey would be a real stretch.

The young man with the long name is quickly become a big name among the 2009 linebacker crop. He enjoyed an impressive showing at the Scout.com Elite Camp in May, and has witnessed a rise in his national ranking to No. 15 weak-side linebacker. Entering the start of his senior season at Stephenson High School (Stone Mountain, Ga.) next month, Mitchell-Thornton has collected some 20 offers, and appears to favor Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Stanford and Tennessee with Marshall, North Carolina and Oklahoma State still in the picture.

During the summer he has been busy attending camps and visiting campuses including stops at Alabama, South Carolina, Clemson, Georgia and Tennessee.

"I just stay for like one session so the coaches could get a good look at me and just so I can see about the chemistry between me and the coaches," Nigel Mitchell-Thornton told Ryan Bass of GoJackets.com during a June stop in Atlanta. "So, that's what I'm doing here so I can see how Coach BJ (Tech LB Coach Brian Jean-Mary) is and see how both of us will be able to work together. "Me and Coach BJ we've been talking for a while now – since January when they offered me," he continued. "And I talk to Coach (Lance) Thompson at Alabama and Coach (John) Chavis over at Tennessee, so I spread it around a little bit."

As a junior, Mitchell-Thornton recorded 102 tackles with six sacks and 12 stops for losses. Some project him as linebacker who could grow into a defensive end, ala Chuck Smith, but Tennessee was among the schools visiting his practices in May to check out his speed at linebacker, and they came away convinced he could cover and close.

In addition to a visit last month, Mitchell-Thornton was in Knoxville in April to observe a Tennessee practice and get a feel for life on The Hill.

"It was great. I had fun," Mitchell-Thornton told GAVSV.com of his visit to UT. "I had heard a lot about it before I went there but I wanted to see for myself. You go there and you wouldn't think it's this big school. It has a small-college feel to it. The facilities were really nice."

Mitchell-Thornton could be graduate early and might enroll at the school of his choice by December. That would be a quick transition for a player his age, but getting the jump on his freshman season could lead to some early playing time. Certainly Tennessee will be restructuring their linebacker rotation and in need of candidates.

"Tennessee has pretty much everything I like," he said. "Academic wise they are about to build a new business center and that's what I am looking to major in. They are a premier program and Coach Chavis said I could come in and get some early playing time."

Mitchell-Thornton is a name that may be back in black when the Vols invade The Swamp next fall.

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