Tennessee Leaves No Stone Unturned

One of the major disappointments in an otherwise outstanding 2009 recruiting campaign was losing out on a pair of four-star offensive linemen from from the Volunteer State who instead chose Georgia and Notre Dame.

Given UT's need for offensive linemen and Lane Kiffin's declaration to keep the best prospects at home, the future of Nashville Maplewood offensive guard prospect James Stone becomes a topic of great interest in Big Orange Country. But, then again, Stone's future is of high interest to a lot of top schools i.e. Alabama, Notre Dame, LSU, North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, Maryland, Stanford, Louisville and Vanderbilt all which have offered. The Vols offered Stone at football camp last summer. UT has stayed on Stone during the coaching change and stand as strong contender for his services.

There's no mystery why Stone is on so many Most Wanted lists this early in the process. At 6-foot-5, 295 pounds with 5.2 speed, he has the size to take on a defensive tackle and the mobility to get out on a linebacker. He's also exception in pulling mode and he runs well in space. He has the athleticism to play either guard or tackle. He is still refining his skills and pad leverage is an area for improvement. Still his ceiling has a lot of head room and his status as the state's top ranked offensive lineman adds to his importance for Kiffin & Co.

In addition to being a standout a blocker, Stone is a stellar student who carries a 3.7 GPA and scored a 24 on his ACT. He plans to major in agriculture or education in college.

"I really like the tradition at Tennessee," Stone told Scout.com's Andrew Bone. "Coach Lane Kiffin is a good coach, and they have put together a real good staff. They have shown a lot of interest in me lately."

That syncs with the state of Tennessee's offensive line which projects four senior starters. The situation is compounded by the dismissal of Ramone Johnson who had seen significant action as a sophomore. The Vols only signed two offensive linemen in the Class of 2009 and UT's depth is largely untested.

The Vols had already lost Austin Long and Alex Bullard to the Bulldogs and Fighting Irish, respectively, months before UT's coaching change took place. This year the Big Orange will be in a better position to defend against such a talent raid. However the level of the competition this early in the process indicates a long fight is likely for the prospect ranked the nation's No. 11 offensive tackle by Scout.com.

Another in-state offensive lineman the Vols are known to have an interest in is O.C. Brown, of Memphis Manassas, who stands 6-foot-3, and tips the scales at 315. Interesting to note he's still 16 years old.

Brown reports offers from Southern Miss and Kentucky, while Alabama, LSU, Mississippi and Oklahoma State recruiting him seriously. Brown credits Tennessee with being the first "big school" to come visit him, as Kiffin was on the case almost before he was on the job.

Also in Memphis at Mitchell Road High School is a pair of bookend offensive tackles — Rodregus Scruggs 6-6.5, 280 pounds and Veronrico Jenkins, 6-6, 265 — attracting early interest from high profile suitors. This titanic tandem anchored a line for an offense that averaged 29 points per game and 344 yards per game with 190 per contest on the ground and 150 through the air. Mitchell Road started the 2008 season 0-4 but rebounded to play for the Class 3A State Championship.

Jenkins lists Cincinnati, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Purdue and Tennessee among his early favorite, while Scruggs has Tennessee and MIssissippi at the top of his favorites ahead of Duke, Louisville, Mississippi State, Miami (Fla.) and Purdue.

With prospects of this stature, Tennessee may be able to rebuild its offensive line without ever leaving the state.


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