Tracking the James Gang

Rebuilding the offensive line ranks right along side signing a savvy signal caller on Tennessee's list of recruiting priorities in 2010, which means the movements of the formidable foursome aka James Hurst, Matt James, JaWuan James and James Stone, is of vital interest in Big Orange Country.

Rebuilding the offensive line ranks right along side signing a savvy signal caller on Tennessee's list of recruiting priorities in 2010, which means the movements of the formidable foursome aka James Hurst, Matt James, JaWuan James and James Stone, is of vital interest in Big Orange Country.

First the bad news: It's now a trio.

Tennessee's top target among offensive line prospects in the Class of 2010 is now off the board and North Carolina bound as James Hurst, a 6-foot-6, 284-pound offensive tackle from Plainfield, Ind., announced for the Tar Heels on Wednesday.

Ranked the nation's No. 3 tackle by Scout.com, the five-star prospect picked North Carolina over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State, Norte Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee. He visited Chapel Hill with his mother in early March and decided to bring the recruiting process to an end before his junior year of high school was even concluded.

Having already collected more than 30 offers, the mid-termer had originally planned to announce his decision in August, but push that date up once he was sure of his decision. It was something of a surprise Hurst didn't land in the SEC. His father Tim played college football at Alabama, while his brother Nelson Hurst played at Mississippi State, but James opted for the ACC in what is a real coup for Butch Davis' staff.

Listed at No. 20 in Scout.com's top 100 prospects nationally, Hurst is widely regarded as the best O-line prospect the Hoosier State has ever produced. The Vols will have to replace three starters in the offensive line after the 2010 campaign.

Another O-lineman from the midwest that has the Vols full attention is Matt James, 6-7, 270, out of Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tennessee has been in on this four-star prospect, who is ranked No. 15 among tackles in the Class of 2010, from the beginning.

In fact, UT was the second school to offer James a scholarship, following the hometown Cincinnati Bearcats, who offered in July of 2008 a couple of weeks ahead of UT's offer. Of course, that was when Phillip Fulmer was head coach, but the Vols remain in contention for James who has a Tennessee tie. His cousin, David James, was also an offensive lineman and played for the Vols (1981-83) under Johnny Majors.

James reports more than 20 offers and lists his favorites as Cincinnati, Duke, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and Tennessee. He has made unofficial visits in the last year to Knoxville, South Bend and Columbus.

Back in the south Tennessee is in the hunt for the No. 10 ranked offensive tackle JaWuan James, 6-6, 285, of North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga. A prototypical left tackle with quick feet, a wide wing spread and a solid base, James plays in a spread offense and doesn't get as many chances to run block, a skill he'll need to improve with experience and instruction at the next level.

UT made his final six list along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and USC. James indicates the Vols are pursuing him aggressively and he recognizes the opportunity to play early.

As would be expected the Vols are actively involved with Nashville Maplewood Comprehensive gridiron star James Stone, who is ranked No. 11 at offensive tackle. Given his in-state status and national ranking, Stone may be Tennessee's latest most wanted O-line prospect, especially now that Hurst is pledged to the Tar Heels.

We caught up with Stone last night and got the latest on his recruitment and ongoing interest in Tennessee. We'll post that later today.


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