UT's Search For Wideouts Reaches Critical Stage

Anthony "Amp" Hill's recent choice of LSU over Tennessee was a blow to the Vols aims of rapidly rebuilding its receiver corps.

The infusion of Hill's size (6-3, 200) and speed (4.48) would have given the Vols a pair of impact freshmen and a player to perfectly complement Jayson Swain, who had been trying to help UT get Hill.

As persuasive as Swain may have been, the Vols appear to have been damaged by its failure to secure an outstanding QB prospect for the future.

"I felt like LSU was the right place for me," Amp told The Insiders Jamie Newberg after announcing his decision on Thursday. "Early playing time was a major factor in my decision. They also have two major commitments at quarterback and I want to hook up with that team. It should be something special on down the road."

Certainly, the Tigers would find it difficult to match Tennessee in terms of playing time. LSU returns sophomore standout Michael Clayton, speedster Devery Henderson and redshirt sophomore Kory Herbert (6-4, 225).

By comparison, Tennessee has a complementary receiver in Tony Brown and a lot of question marks. So playing time for any talented freshman could prove plentiful, considering the Vols would like to rotate five wideouts in game situations.

No LSU didn't get Hill because of playing time, it got Hill because it also has commitments from the nation's No. 6 quarterback in Robert Lane and No. 17 in Matt Flynn. The Tigers also have junior Marcus Randall, who took over this season for the injured Mike Mauck along with sophomore Rick Clausen. If that lineup of rocket launchers is not impressive enough, consider that the Tigers are a finalist for the services of No. 3 QB prospect JaMarcus Russell, who may or may not have eliminated Tennessee.

Without a big-name on board, it is hard for most high school receivers to visualize themselves in an explosive offense. That's a problem that could continue to plague the Vols through the rest of the recruiting process.

It also places a lot of pressure on Tennessee to land either Bret Smith of Warren, Ark., who is No. 18 nationally or No. 17 Craig Davis of New Orleans. Both WRs are slated to be at UT this weekend. The Vols are still technically in the running for Robert Meachem and Steve Smith. But Smith is making an official visit to USC this weekend and will likely announce his decision to sign with the Trojans while Meachem of Tulsa, Okla., has only visited UCLA to this point and hasn't set a visit for Knoxville.

Another player to watch is B.J. Vickers (6-3, 207, 4.5) of Venice, Calif., who is scheduled to officially visit the Vols next week and is also considering Louisville, Mississippi State, Oregon and Hawaii. Vickers is rated the nation's No. 33 wideout after catching 67 passes for 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. He followed that up with another standout season as a senior last fall, catching 76 balls for 1,527 yards (an average of 20.1 yards per catch) and nine touchdown. Vickers is one of the country's top talents and is probably underrated at No. 33.

Vickers will be accompanied on his trip to UT by teammate Antwuan Giddens (6-4, 200, 4.52) rated the nation's No. 44 wide receiver by The Insiders and is one of four wideouts left on Tennessee's list at receiver who could make a difference as a freshman.

If Tennessee was fortunate enough to find a talented signal caller in the next two weeks, it might help it land a couple of these four VIPs (Very Important Prospects). Along with Swain that would put the Vols passing game on the road to recovery.

In other bad news, Tennessee saw No. 1 tight end prospect Greg Olsen commit to Notre Dame where his brother, Chris, is a freshman quarterback. Olsen's decision to sign with the Fighting Irish isn't a surprise and probably had more to do with his family than it does UT's QB situation.

On the other hand, not having a signal caller in place for the future couldn't have helped Tennessee with Olsen as it won't with any receiver remaining on their wish list.

If the Vols are fortunate enough to intercept a QB intended for another program, it could change the momentum of its entire recruiting campaign.

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