What a Pair!

At 6-feet-6 and 275 pounds, he has the size you look for in an offensive tackle. He has the long arms and the quick feet. He has the mobility and the flexibility.

There's only one attribute college recruiters fret that Marquis Pair of Sumter (S.C.) High School may be lacking:

"At his size, he's always been King of the Hill," Sumter head coach Paul Sorrells said. "So, coaches question his meanness a little bit ... Has he got a little mean streak?

"I have verbalized that to him. He always says, 'Tell people to watch next year's film and I'll show 'em the answer.'"

Described by his coach as "a good kid from a good family ... very well behaved," Pair's nice-guy image may be all that's keeping him from ranking among the most coveted tackle prospects in America. If his mental makeup ever matches his physical makeup, he could be a beast.

"Few kids have been blessed with the physical attributes he has," Sorrells noted. "He's 6-6 and 275 pounds with an eight-foot wingspan and 5-flat speed in the 40. He's very athletic, very flexible in the hips and ankles. He's a really agile kid for that size. It's his genetic makeup that sets him apart."

Pair turned heads with the incredible lateral movement he displayed during pass-protecting drills at the Lane Kiffin football camp earlier this week. What he lacks in heft and strength he offsets in footwork and technique.

"I've got two offensive line coaches here, Doc Davis and Matt Love," Sorrells said. "They do a great job of teaching technique and they give those guys a lot of individual attention.

"It's rewarding when you help any young man develop into a better player. When you have one that comes to the table with all of the physical attributes, that makes him that much more special."

Clearly, Marquis Pair is special. That's why he arrived at the UT camp largely unheralded but left sharing Most Valuable Offensive Player recognition with two celebrated prospects – James Stone of Nashville and Zach Fulton of Flossmoor, Illinois..

"I didn't expect to get that honor, so I was really surprised," he said by phone from the family home in Sumter. "But I did real well against some of the top defensive linemen in the country, so I felt real good about that."

Because no pads were worn at the UT camp, linemen displayed their pass blocking but not their run blocking. So, that part of Pair's game has not yet been evaluated by Vol coaches.

"He's been a very good run blocker for us," Sorrells said. "He has a tremendous desire to be a very good football player. Whatever it takes to accomplish that, I think he'll do it."

At Tennessee, being a good run blocker means getting to the "second level." In other words, the Vol staff wants O-linemen quick enough to get upfield and lock up on the linebackers.

"That is important," Sorrells said. "You've got to get off the ball and off that first guy to the next level. When you run 4.9 or 5.0, you can do that. So many linemen run way slower than that. Marquis is fast AND he takes proper angles, which is another key to getting to the next level."

Tennessee may offer Pair a scholarship without ever seeing him run blocking. His pass protection in camp was THAT impressive.

"He's pretty good on pass blocking," Sorrells said. "He's got that long reach and great feet. If you've got good feet and long arms, then get extended on the defensive end, that's a long way for him to run around. That's what you're trying to do – make them run the biggest circle they can make."

Pair says he graded out "about 80 percent" as a blocker last fall with "at least three knockdowns per game." He credits his agility to a basketball background, adding that his pass-protection skills are easily explained.

"I just go hard every play ... try to use my length to stay in front of the guy," he said. "I've picked up a lot from watching the NFL."

Pair described his time in Knoxville as "one of the best camps I've ever been to," and praised Vol coaches for "really helping everybody one on one. They let you know what you're supposed to do and how to do it. They give it to you straight up."

Tennessee is showing a lot of interest, he said, along with North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Clemson. Pair isn't planning to make an early commitment, however.

"I'll probably wait till midway through the season," he said. "I might get through the playoffs, then make my decision before Signing Day."

Although Pair is sure to attract a lot of offers between now and Signing Day, Tennessee may have one trump card in its favor.

"I grew up in Nashville," Sorrells said, "and I've been a Volunteer fan my whole life."

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