Vols Land Bookend LBs

Like Sugar Ray in his heyday, Tennessee recruiters have found their range on the recruiting trail and are landing the one-two combination with astonishing regularity — an assessment further reinforced today as another prospect pair declares for the Volunteers.

Add linebackers Nigel MItchell-Thornton and D.T. Shackelford to UT's commitment list as they became the fifth pair of prospects to pledge to the Vols' Class of 2009 on the same day. Tennessee's verbal commitment total is now 17, which represents over two thirds of their projected total of signees.

Mitchell-Thornton and Shackelford gives the Vols a couple of solid linebackers with good upside. Mitchell-Thornton is a 6-foot-2, 228-pound middle linebacker at highly regard Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga. He is rated a three-star prospect and is ranked No. 27 at his position nationally by Scout.com.

Shackelford is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound Sam (strong side) linebacker from Austin High School in Decatur, Ala., who is rated a three-star prospect and No. 28 at his position in the Class of ‘09. As a junior, he recorded 102 tackles with 7.5 sacks and five fumble recoveries to earn Decatur Daily all-Area first team 4A-6A.

As a junior, Mitchell-Thornton also 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.

Mitchell-Thronton chose Tennessee over offers from more than 20 D-I schools including: Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Stanford, Marshall, North Carolina and Oklahoma State. He also picked up a late offer from Georgia, but it was too little, too late. In addition to attending UT's senior camp in June, 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.

"Tennessee has pretty much everything I like, 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."

Shackelford, who boasts a 3.8 GPA, chose Tennessee over offers from Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Stanford and Vanderbilt. Like Mitchell-Thornton, he attended UT's senior camp and impressed coaches enough to get an offer that same day.

"I just liked Tennessee better than the other schools," Shackelford told Scout.com's Steve Robertson after announcing his decision. "It came down to Tennessee and Mississippi State and liked both of them a lot. I liked all of the schools that offered me and I am real fortunate to be in this situation.

"I have just always liked Tennessee even when I was little. It just came down to a family decision and Tennessee was the best place for me."

Friday's double commitment comes on the heels of two commitments announced Sunday by wide receiver Zach Rogers and JUCO defensive tackle Edwin Herbert.

At this pace, Tennessee will complete its 2009 recruiting campaign before the 2008 football season even kicks off. But the Vols still have high-profile prospects they are in contention for including six five-star prospects.

With Big Orange scholarships in short supply, UT's rapid recruiters have another big selling point.

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