Final Visits Loom Large

Some final visit weekends before national signing day are little more than a formality, a final fling for prospects who already know where they're going, a long shot for a coaching staff willing to buck long odds for big rewards.

Usually it's a small affair with a handful of visitors who may exhibit all the enthusiasm of timeshare marks listening to the obligatory sales pitch before they are provided "free" accommodations and some lovely parting gifts.

On occasion some stud prospect will agree to visit a campus as a favor to an assistant that may have recruited them. Former Vol offensive lineman Jason Respert performed such a kindness for a Florida assistant only to have the official visit blow up in his face.

Sometimes a school will use this weekend to host a prospect who may have a younger sibling on the rise or to create some positive buzz for the program in the recruiting community which thrives on word-of-mouth endorsements. Rarely does a prominent program get to this point in the process with a make-or-break scenario on the last visits of the recruiting season.

Things aren't quite that drastic for Tennessee, thanks to some good early recruiting by Phillip Fulmer's staff supplemented by Lane KIffin's rapid deployment, but this is a highly significant weekend for the Vols because the top priority of this recruiting campaign is will be on hand along with three other five-star skill players.

Marlon Brown, of Memphis Harding Academy, is the state's No. 1 prospect and the nation's No. 2 ranked receiver. He has narrowed his choices to Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.

Brown has played this one close to the chest and hasn't tipped his hand. He has stayed true to the methodical approach he employed from the beginning. He's enjoyed all of his visits and he likes all the perspective staffs. There might be more early playing opportunity and a greater need at UT, but Brown is good enough to crack the rotation on any college team.

But Brown isn't the only five-star receiver scheduled to visit The Hill. The Vols are also expecting Pat Patterson of Noxubee High School in Macon, Miss. Rated No. 5 nationally the 6-foot-2, 205-pound wideout has sure hands, good strength (300 pounds on the bench), and is dangerous after the catch.

As a senior he caught 77 passes for 1,387 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was named first team all-state by the Clarion Ledger and selected 4A Offensive Player of the Year as Noxubee County went 14-0 and won the state championship. In 2007 he caught 72 passes for 1,415 yards and 18 TDs as Noxubee County reached the title game.

A Parade All-American, Patterson has risen steadily up the rankings and he would be another ideal fit for Kiffin's pro style system. He has visited Alabama, Southern MIss and Ole Miss, but he hasn't named a leader. His parents seem to prefer the proximity and small town environment of Oxford, but Patterson seems open going into his visit.

No. 3 tight end Orson Charles of Tallahassee, Fla., still plans to visit the Vols although he will also take a Feb. 13 visit to US before announcing his decision. He has visited Florida, Florida State and Georgia. As a senior he caught 75 receptions for 1,440 yards and 24 touchdowns, three of which came on fumble returns as a defensive end.

No. 2 running back prospect Trent Richardson, of Escambia High School in Pensacola, Fla., also appears to be on for a visit although he falls into the soft verbal category for Alabama and would be in violation of Nick Saban's ban on Rocky Top visits. He has also visited LSU and Florida. Richardson, 5-11, 225, 4.5, ran for 1,849 yards on 191 carries and 24 touchdowns as a senior including a career high 419 rushing yards in one game. With David Oku backing off from his commitment to Tennessee after a visit to Syracuse, Richardson is even a higher priority target. And the opportunity is there for him to become an immediate starter.

For an offense in need of playmakers Brown, Patterson, Richardson and Charles could cure all Tennessee's ills in a hurry, but just one of these five-star talents would give the Vols a signature talent for the Class of ‘09.

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