Turk Tops UT's Most Wanted List

Spectacular speed rusher Turk McBride has one of the best football names in the Class of 2003, and he's the biggest name that remains on Tennessee's recruiting board.

That, along with Tennessee's dire need for speed at defensive end, makes the Woodrow Wilson High School star a top priority for signing day; a fact not lost on UT's Phillip Fulmer who visited McBride in his Camden, N.J. home on Monday.

The in-home encounter represented Tennessee's last face-to-face appeal to the nation's No. 3 defensive end as rated by The Insiders. He visited UT in October and Ohio State in November, before touring the North Carolina State and Florida campuses the last two weekends. He will wrap up his visits with a trip to Virginia this weekend and is expected to make his decision soon after his return, although he may not announce it until early February.

The acquisition of a player of McBride's magnitude has taken on added significance since Tennessee appears to have fallen out of contention for defensive tackle Lawrence "Mo" Dampeer. Rated the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle, Dampeer appears headed to Oklahoma or Ohio State and indicates he may cancel visits to Tennessee and Miami.

Another reason for McBride's rise in importance to Tennessee is the Florida factor, as the Gators made a very favorable impression during his visit there last week. The series between Florida and Tennessee has showcased a great array of impact players at defensive end over the last decade and sometimes swings the competitive balance in contests between these SEC East football powers.

"I don't know how to put this but at Florida, it seemed like the coaches and players had a father-son relationship," McBride told The Insiders analyst Chris Pool. "Tennessee is a childhood dream of mine and Ohio State had the best fans. I have a tough decision to make, but I should know where I'm going after this weekend."

McBride has the ability to make an early impact on any college defense. Woodrow Wilson had a disappointing 6-4 record last season after going 12-0 and winning the state championship in 2001, but McBride made the most of his opportunities, recording 67 tackles with 12.5 sacks. He also recovered four fumbles, returning one for a touchdown, returned an interception for a touchdown and blocked four punts. He played receiver on offense and caught 21 passes for 586 yards, an average of 27.8 yards per catch, and four touchdowns.

As a junior, McBride, who hails from the same high school that produced safety Rashad Baker, had 67 tackles with 16.5 sacks, but says his improvement as a player is not reflected by the numbers.

"I think I made the most progress in my technique and how I get to the ball," he said. "I picked up the double teams much faster last year."

In addition to his gridiron prowess, McBride is also a capable track and field competitor. He runs both the 100 meters and four-by-100, as well as, throws the shot put and discus for his high school. McBride has posted a personal best time of 11.3 in the 100 meters.

The big guy has some other impressive numbers. He bench presses 405 pounds and recorded a 33-inch vertical leap as a sophomore. McBride is a physical specimen and a classic speed rusher who is consumed with wreaking havoc and wrecking pockets.

"I'm a very competitive person," McBride said with strong conviction. "I hate losing even in gym class or at checkers."

McBride's competitive nature came out this season even when his team wasn't competitive. For example: Against Holy Cross his squad absorbed a 49-29 defeat, but McBride just continued to dish out punishment from his defensive end post.

"We lost, but I showed a lot of character for myself," he said of that setback. "We were losing but I never gave up. And I didn't realize that I never gave up, I just kept fighting and fighting. My coach complimented me about giving a 110 percent every play in that game. That shows a lot about what I'm capable of doing."

McBride was a holy terror against Holy Cross, finishing the game with 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He says his track practice enhances his play at defensive end, particularly when it comes to firing out of the blocks in an explosive fashion.

"I'd say I pride myself most on being a speed rusher," he added. "I"m looking at a good education and the best opportunity."

McBride indicates Tennessee remains a strong contender for his services and says he has a solid relationship with UT assistant Steve Caldwell and that he had a good visit with Coach Fulmer.

"I had my in-home visit with Coach Fulmer on Monday and it went well, very well," McBride said. "I enjoyed it. Coach Caldwell is recruiting me. We've developed a good relationship. It's real cool... it's kind of subtle."

By the way, McBride's real first name is Claude, but says he doesn't remember a time that he was called anything other than Turk.

"I had Turk ever since I can remember," he said. "They've been calling me that for so long. It started as a family thing and just got out."

It's a name the Vols would love to have at the head of the Class of 2003.

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