Still the defense has been a bright spot and UT's rebuilt LB corps has been a pleasant surprise. Ellix Wilson has performed so well at middle linebacker the Vols have been able to move Gerald Williams to defensive end where his exceptional strength and quickness poses match-up problems, while giving the Vols an added dimension on the edge.
After a bit of a slow start RIco McCoy has looked like his old seek-and-destroy self in SEC play while Nevin McKenzie closes like a sleek predator on the open savanna. Adam Myers-White has played his best ball since signing with the Vols as an U.S. Army All-American in the top-rated Class of 2005. Throw in strong safety Eric Berry, who is frequently utilized as a fourth linebacker, and you have a formidable contingent of second level defenders that is fast, fluid, fierce and physical. They are also experienced with Wilson, McKenzie and Myers-White playing their senior seasons while McCoy is a redshirt junior likely to have NFL opportunities.
That's what makes the commitment by Jerod Askew so timely for Tennessee and its followers because not only does he help address an immediate need at linebacker, his pledge is also a positive development at a gloomy point in what is looking like a long season. Moreover he chose Tennessee over offers from Alabama, South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Clemson among others.
At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, with 4.55 speed and even faster reactions, Askew is in the Eddie Moore mode of Sam linebackers, given his relentless energy, laudable leverage and uncanny instincts.
As a junior at Oscar F. Smith High School, Askew compiled 120 tackles, including 24 tackles for loss, with 14 sacks, and a pair of picks. He earned all-district honors for his efforts and was voted to the All-Tidewater team as Smith posted a 13-1 record before being knocked off in the Class-AAA semifinals. He is an impact type talent with big-play ability. He may remind some UT fans of another linebacker named Jerrod from Virginia — Jerrod Mayo who was rated a three-star prospect and the nation's No. 25 linebacker by Scout.com. Four years later he is the starting for the New England Patriots.
Ranked No. 13 at his position by Scout.com and rated a four-star talent, Askew is a very physical defender with an analytical mind. He hits like a sledgehammer, blows up lead blockers and generally creates havoc. He ranges from sideline to sideline to make plays, and although aggressive by nature, rarely gets out of position due to his ability to recover quickly. He's also good in coverage and a force on the blitz. Askew has the size and speed to play any of the three linebacker positions, which allows a defensive coordinator the luxury of moving him along the line to better disguise his blitzes, but his future looks to be best served at the Sam LB.
Askew reportedly has a 4.7 GPA and is also excellent fullback with advanced blocking abilities.
He becomes the Vols 18th commitment in the Class of 2009 and is the second four-star prospect the Vols have landed in three days, following on the heels of Jonathan Hollins, a JUCO defensive tackle from College of the Canyons in California.
For Tennessee's next trick it needs to find someone to come to the defense of the offense.