Cracking Memphis Code

Odd as it sounds, a national recruiting policy that places a premium on protecting the state's top tier football talent doesn't necessarily cover or apply to Tennessee's largest city, because when it comes to recruiting the Volunteer State, Memphis is like a whole other country.

Named for the ancient Egyptian city that marked movements of the Nile, Memphis has an energy, style, culture, cuisine and politics all its own. It's a city of divided allegiances with fans of the hometown Tigers mixed with staunch Ole MIss, Mississippi State and Arkansas fans. There are plenty of fans from other schools. Tennessee has it's fair share of fans in Memphis but Big Orange Country it's not.

Over the years, indeed through decades, Tennessee hasn't been the team to beat when it came to recruiting the Bluff City. No doubt the Vols have signed some outstanding talent over the years out of Memphis, but they've met with more failure than success. Even when Phillip Fulmer was hitting it out of the park with astonishing regularity on the recruiting trail, he was a mere mortal in Memphis.

In 2009 the Vols signed Melrose linebacker Greg King but missed out on Marlon Brown, Austin Long and Aubrey Phillips, who played his first three seasons at Memphis Briarcrest Christian before transferring just across the border to Olive Branch (Miss.) High School.

The list of highly sought players to bypass opportunities at the University of Tennessee is as long as it is impressive. In recent years players such as Michael Oher, Dewayne Robertson, Craig Cooper along with Marlon Brown and his game of renown turned down offers from Tennessee for Ole MIss, Kentucky, Miami and Georgia respectively.

The Vols received good production from Memphis natives Dan Williams and Ellix Wilson but other Memphis prospects that signed with Tennessee — such as Malcom Rawls, Todd Cox, Darrius Myers and Mondre Dickerson — either never made it to UT or didn't finish there.

The challenge for 2010 appears to be daunting once again and it begins with Justin Maclin, a four-star linebacker from Ridgeway who is ranked No. 11 among the nation's outside linebacker crop by Maclin moved from tight end to linebacker as a junior and posted a breakout season with 92 total tackles with 19 sacks and two defensive touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound defender bench presses 335 pounds and owns a 35-inch vertical jump. He reportedly carries a 3.0 GPA and scored a 17 on his ACT which he plans to take again.

Maclin has received approximately 20 offers to this point and said he currently favors Alabama and LSU. Tennessee is in the next group which includes Florida, LSU, Illinois, North Carolina and USC.

Other prospects the Vols are interested in from the Memphis area include: No. 7 ranked offensive guard O.C. Brown. The Vols are also interested in Mitchell Road offensive tackle tandem Veronricvco Jenkins, 6-6, 265, and Rodregus Scruggs, 6-5, 280.

The challenges Lane Kiffin & Co. face in establishing Tennessee as a recruiting force in Memphis are great, but then so are the rewards.

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