Tennessee's Christmas Wish List

Tis the season to be jolly and to follow the folly of football recruiting. For as all college football fans know, the a best gauge of future success is recruiting the best.

While Tennessee supporters are still lamenting the season that should have been but never was, they are also dreaming of an Orange and White Christmas filled with a bundle of Blue Chip prospects under UT's tree.

So it is with visions of prize pigskin plums dancing in our heads, we present a top 10 wish list for Tennessee from the Class of 2003. These players aren't necessarily ranked in order according to The Insiders and other recruiting services, but are rated according to Tennessee's immediate needs and their long-range value. We have also factored in Tennessee's chances of signing each member on this elite list.

No. 1: JaMarcus Russell (6-5, 205, 4.79) quarterback from Lillie B. Williamson High School in Mobile, Ala. —As long as Casey Clausen is healthy Tennessee will be well heeled at QB, but Russell has the talent to augment the position as a quality backup who fits perfectly into the Vols drop-back, power-I system. Rated the nation's No. 3 quarterback prospect behind Kyle Wright and Chris Leak, Russell is a bigger version of former Vol quarterback Tony Robinson whose best football is still a few years away. Russell can make all the throws from the fade and the deep out to the seam routes and swing passes. In the long term, Russell may be the best talent in the Class of 2003. In the short term he may be as exciting as any prospect in the current crop of high school all-Americans.

No. 2: Michael Bush (6-3, 230, 4.5) quarterback from Male High School in Louisville, Ky. Bush has played quarterback, wide receiver, running back, linebacker and safety during his high school career. He is the state's No. 1 prospect and was voted No. 1 at five different positions on Kentucky's all-state team as a junior. Bush played primarily at quarterback as a senior and exhibited rare ability in a shootout with Brian Brohm of Louisville Trinity. In that all-star encounter Bush, the state's Mr. Football, completed 33-of-47 passes for 468 yards and six TDs and rushed 24 times for 116 yards and a TD. In case you don't have a calculator handy that's 584 yards and seven touchdowns by one player in a single game. It's little wonder that Bush wants to play quarterback in college and all the schools he's considering will give him that opportunity. How fast he can be ready for prime time is anybody's guess, but if it doesn't work out behind the center he could help any top ten team at several other positions. If Bush has played exclusively at linebacker, safety or wide receiver he would have been rated No. 1 at any of those positions. As it is, Bush is rated No. 14 at quarterback and he represents UT's best chance to land a big-play signal caller other than Russell this recruiting season. However it's Bush's versatility that makes him one of the best values on the recruiting board. Scheduled to visit Tennessee on Jan. 17, Bush is also looking at Ohio State, Louisville and Auburn.

No. 3: Greg Olsen (6-6, 245, 4.71) tight end from Wayne Hills High School in Wayne, N.J. — With Jason Witten looking more like an early entry in the NFL Draft all the time, the Vols need a difference maker to replace him and Olsen is rated the nation's best. As a senior, Olsen made 38 catches for 703 yards and 14 touchdowns. Also a standout at defensive end, where he recorded 79 tackles (23 for a loss) had 14 sacks, 15 hurries and four caused fumbles. The son of his high school head coach, Olsen has the ability to contribute early which would make him invaluable to a Tennessee team that doesn't have a proven tight end behind Witten. His older brother Chris is a freshman quarterback at Notre Dame and Miami is also high on his list. Tennessee remains a dark horse for Olsen's services at this point, but don't count the Vols out yet; they have playing time to offer and an experienced quarterback who knows how to utilize the tight end.

No. 4: Robert Meachem (6-2, 205, 4.28) from Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla. — Rated the nation's No. 5 wide receiver, Meachem has the size, strength, speed and skill to one day star in the NFL. The highest-rated receiver remaining at Tennessee's position of greatest need, Meachem could join Jayson Swain in making an immediate impact next fall. Also plays basketball as his 38-inch vertical leap attests. Hasn't named a favorite or set up any visits yet, so it's difficult to estimate Tennessee's chances at this point. However the Vols offer an opportunity for early playing time at a big-time program which is something a prospect of Meachem's magnitude should find very appealing.

No. 5: Turk McBride (6-4, 234, 4.6) defensive end from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden. N.J. Rated the nation's No. 4 defensive end, McBride is a premier pass rusher with 35 sacks combined as a junior and senior. Hails from the same high school that produced Rashad Baker who will enter his fourth year as a starter next fall at Tennessee. McBride has the ability to contribute early as a pass-rushing specialist and would fill a big need in the Vols pressure package. Had a great visit to Tennessee on Oct. 26. He has also visited Ohio State and will take an official to Miami on Jan. 17. Tennessee coach Larry Slade has had good success recruiting this area and could come away with a prize that will make his secondary much more effective over the next four years.

No. 6: Alvin Marshall (5-9, 180, 4.3) of Compton Community College in California. Signed originally by Nebraska out of Los Angeles, Texas, Marshall is an outstanding offensive talent and an explosive return specialist. Amassed nearly 5,000 yards and scored 33 touchdowns during his two years of junior college action. Has the ability to up the octane of any offense. Marshall has visited Fresno State and UNLV and has a visit scheduled for Washington (Jan. 10), he's also considering visits to Tennessee and USC. Has the talent to play at wide receiver, slot back and tailback. The type of prospect that would give the Vols offense an immediate boost.

No. 7: Daniel Brooks (6-3, 235, 4.56) from Jackson Central-Merry in Jackson, Tenn. — Linebacker isn't exactly a crying need for Tennessee but signing the state's No. 1 prospect is among the Vols highest priorities, especially when Alabama is the chief competition. Brooks is rated the nation's No. 8 linebacker and reminds many of former Vol and current NFL star Al Wilson who also attended Jackson Central-Merry. With visits remaining to Ole Miss (Jan. 10) and North Carolina (Jan. 17) along with a get-acquainted period with Alabama's new coaching staff, Brooks doesn't figure to pop soon, which will make this recruiting vigil a long one.

No. 8: Eric Young (6-4, 270, 4.7) from Comprehensive High School in Union, S.C. — Rated the nation's No. 3 offensive lineman, Young has the ability to play on either side of the line which makes him an especially intriguing prospect for Tennessee. Graded out at 90 percent this season at offensive tackle, Young could play early on the O-line with a little added weight. The need for offensive linemen is greater at Tennessee than first anticipated this season and a player of Young's caliber will pressure the starters to improve while adding quality depth. Young is slated to take his last visit to Tennessee (Jan. 24), preceded by trips to North Carolina (Jan. 3), Clemson (Jan. 10) and South Carolina (Jan. 17). If he's still uncommitted by Jan. 24, the Vols figure to have a good chance of landing Young.

No. 9: Reynaldo Hill (6-1, 185, 4.33) from Dodge City Community College in Kansas, is a big corner with lock-down talent on a level with Julian Battle coming out of junior college. Would provide immediate help in a UT secondary that has lost both Battle and Willie Miles. This one will probably come down to Tennessee or Florida. Hill had a good visit to UT and will visit Florida on Jan. 17. Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Hill was placed at Dodge City by Iowa. He has also visited Nebraska and Mississippi State but says he'll choose between the Vols and Gators. Don't be surprised if Hill gets antsy and moves up his Florida visit if he doesn't commit to Tennessee before then.

No. 10: Anthony "Amp" Hill (6-3, 200, 4.48) is the second wide receiver on this list and the Vols would take three wideouts if they are of this quality. Hill is ranked No. 10 nationally and has the size and speed to make an early impact. Had a great visit to Knoxville and is very impressed by what UT has to offer. Tennessee and Florida State look like the favorites at this point, although Hill is also considering LSU, North Carolina and Florida. Add Hill with Swain or Meachem or Steve Smith and Tennessee would be well on its way to becoming Wide Receiver U once again.*

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