Peach Bowl will help UT recruiting

Tennessee's football recruiting got a boost with three commitments in the past four days, and it could get an even bigger lift when the Vols play Peach Bowl foe Maryland in Atlanta on New Year's Eve.

Georgia is one of the most talent-rich areas in America, and the Vols historically get some of their best players from there. For instance, Jamal Lewis (Atlanta), Cosey Coleman (Clarkston) and Deon Grant (Augusta) were the cornerstones of UT's 1998 national title team. In addition, this year's squad featured two starting offensive linemen from the Peach State -- Sean Young (Cohutta) and Jason Respert (Warner Robins) -- plus three key running backs -- Jabari Davis (Stone Mountain), Derrick Tinsley (Marietta) and Will Revill (Albany).

Vol head man Phillip Fulmer conceded that playing in the Atlanta-based Peach Bowl is a boon to recruiting.

''It is. It's a fine place,'' he said. ''More importantly, we'll probably be the only show on TV at that time ... New Year's Eve ... national TV ... prime-time. That's probably a bigger factor than being in the city.''

After seven consecutive January bowl appearances, Tennessee slipped to an 8-4 record and a December bowl this season. Asked how that has affected the perception of UT's program among prospects, Fulmer shrugged.

''We've got a real good track record and we've been well received everywhere I've been around the country,'' the head man said. ''People have talked about the injuries enough to realize it's been a tough year.''

After seeing the program slip out of the top 25 and into the Peach Bowl, some critics suggest Tennessee's program is in decline. Fulmer dismisses such talk with one sentence.

''The year before Oklahoma won the national championship,'' he said, ''they played in the Independence Bowl.''

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