Vols Story will Be Told In 48 Hours

It's 1:30 a.m. on the Monday before Wednesday's national signing day and we still don't know where Tennessee's Class of 2003 is.

Is it the typical top five class UT fans have grown so accustomed to during Phillip Fulmer's decade-long run on The Hill? Is it a top 10 class that assures Vol fans the program remains on steady ground despite a disappointing season? Will it be a top 15 to 20 class that signifies some slippage but nothing significant? Or will it be a class that fails to land in the top 20 which means it probably won't rank in the top five in the SEC?

Ultimately, it will not matter much where this class ranks as long as Tennessee meets its needs and doesn't make too many reaches. However Tennessee hasn't met its needs at quarterback and there is some question as to whether it will meet its needs at wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle and at defensive end with a couple of speed rushers. Even the offensive line may not get the talent injection it needs to create ongoing competition.

Fortunately, the players are still out there that can resolve all those issues and they'll start falling quickly today and tomorrow. One that's already fallen is cornerback Kenny Scott of Daytona Beach who announced at his school's sports banquet that he was going to Georgia Tech.

After last week's defection of Nashville Hillsboro cornerback Chris Russell, the Vols have apparently added the commitment of Rock Hill, S.C., corner Jonathan Hefney (5-10, 175, 4.45) who visited this weekend. Tennessee is also in the picture with JC corner Lionel Green of Reedley, Ca., who is one of the top prizes in the junior college ranks.

In other good news, Tennessee appears to have worked itself back into contention for defensive end Richard Cook and defensive tackle Matthew Malele. Cook had been a Georgia commitment but now indicates he is reconsidering Tennessee. Malele, of Carson, Ca., is also taking another look at the Vols after all but completely eliminating Tennessee last week. In-home visits by Fulmer has put the Vols back in contention on both of those prospects and he may have closed on a couple of others after personal visits last week.

The status of three big linemen should be known by tomorrow. No. 4 offensive lineman Mike Jones is expected to make his announcement today at his high school in Oaklawn, Ill. Jones is expected to pick between Tennessee and Iowa, but Notre Dame, where his brother played, remains in contention.

Meanwhile in Union, S.C., Eric Young (rated No. 3) may or may not still be committed to Tennessee. He visited North Carolina yesterday and maintains an interest in both in-state schools South Carolina and Clemson. No. 18 rated offensive linemen Isaiah Thomas visited Tennessee over the weekend and indicates he'll have an announcement on Tuesday. The Vols also remain a contender for No. 40 Aaron Sears of Russellville, Ala., who is also looking at Auburn and Miami. The Vols have an opportunity to anchor the success of this class around the quality of these offensive linemen.

Fulmer also visited wide receiver Oklahoma No. 5 wideout Robert Meachem on Friday as well as Bret Smith of Warren, Ark., who is listed at No. 18 by The Insiders and higher by other services. The competition for both Smith and Meachem is from in-state Oklahoma and Arkansas. Smith seems the most likely to leave home for UT and is a critical component to the success of this class.

The biggest defensive prize still out there for UT is pass rusher Turk McBride of Camden, N.J., who is down to Tennessee, Miami and Virginia. No. 3 rated McBride may be much closer to committing to the Vols than most experts believe. Another Virginia prize the Vols are involved with is No. 25 linebacker Xavier Adibi of Hampton. Adibi is down to Virginia Tech where his brother will be a senior and Tennessee. It would be an upset if the Vols come out on top in this battle.

The need at tight end could be filled by Elizabethon's Vince Redd who has outstanding potential to become a big playmaker. He's also the last in-state prize and the Vols have done an outstanding job of keeping talent in Tennessee this season.

Of course, there's no much the Vols can do about the quarterback situation until next year. But the rest of the picture should come together in the next 36 hours and a strong finish could boost the Vols into the upper tier of college football on Wednesday. A weak finish will invite more scrutiny but either way we won't know the full story until four or five years from now.


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