Vols Vie For 5-Star Corner

Most of the traffic that reaches the delta town of West Helena, Ark., is filled with gamblers headed to the assortment of casinos anchored on the mighty Mississippi River, but in recent months many of the vehicles coming through are driven by college coaches looking for the next sure thing.

Enter Darius Winston, a 6-foot-1, 181-pound, shutdown corner with sprinter's speed and sensational transition skills. As a junior he led West Helena High School to a state playoff berth with 40 tackles, two interceptions and two punt returns for touchdowns. He didn't get to play much offense but did catch one pass for a 50-yard TD.

Don't mistake Winston's lack of big stats for lack of production. The better he does his job at corner the less likely he is to have an opportunity for tackles or INTs. But you'd be hard pressed to find a faster defensive back or a more sought after player in the nation.

Any good cover corner is going to attract a lot of attention due to their sacristy, but a corner of Winston's ilk draws coaches and scouts in swarms. It's a second chance swarm in this case as Winston originally committed to the home state Razorbacks and new head coach Bobby Petrino, before reopening the recruiting process this summer. He is still considering Arkansas and also favors Clemson, Georgia, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss and Tennessee. He has over 35 scholarship offers.

With five SEC schools in his top nine, it reflects the importance of shutdown corners that can neutralize an opponents top target without going to the double-team, This allows defenses to commit more defenders to stop the run — a problem UT fans are most familiar with.

The demand for cornerback talent in the SEC has only increased as so many of the top receivers have signed with teams from the Conference in recent years. This year four of the nation's top 5 wide receivers as ranked by Scout.com are from SEC states while Scout's No. 6 receiver, JeRon Stokes of Philadelphia, Pa., has already committed to Tennessee.

It's not always easy to get a good read on cornerbacks because they aren't usually matched against both a D-I caliber receiver and a D-I quality quarterback. However Winston has the type of talent that jumps off the screen.

To begin with there's Winston's speed which has been consistently clocked at 4.30 or faster. He has the size and strength to play press coverage, the ability to change directions on a dime and the capacity to close ground in a hurry. He could play around 200 pounds without losing a step, and he's an exciting special teams talent.

It's not surprising Darius Winston is ranked the nation's No. 4 corner back by Scout.com and No. 34 prospect overall. He has been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Winston dislocated his pinky finger during passing drills this summer and will be limited in his workout schedule.

He doesn't currently list a leader and he doesn't plan to announce until after his high school season. He will make several official visits this fall.

Tennessee is one of the schools that will get an official visit from this complete package. You can bet on it.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories