Rodney Coe on Vol radar

Charlie Coe gave Tennessee football three quality years as an assistant coach - overseeing Vol receivers in 1990, then running backs in 1991 and '92. Now he may be giving the program something even better.

Rodney Coe, Charlie's grandson, is a 5-star running back prospect who has the Big Orange on his preliminary list of potential colleges.

A rugged 6-4, 240-pounder, he rushed 106 times for 978 yards and 12 touchdowns for Edwardsville (Ill.) High School last fall. He also played middle linebacker and returned kickoffs.

"I've been in coaching 23 years, had 13 Div. I athletes and five High School All-Americans but Rodney is without question the most talented player I've coached," Edwardsville head man Mark Bliss told "The things he can do for his size are very rare.

"Kids like him only come along once in a coach's lifetime. He's 6-4 240, runs a 4.5 and can jump out of the gym. The Good Lord gave him a very special gift, and I remind him every day not to waste it."

Young Coe also is reminded of his gift by the parade of major-college recruiters who visit Edwardsville on a daily basis.

"He's gotten 34 offers from schools across the nation," Bliss said. "The last two months have been unbelievable in terms of how many coaches have come through here."

Coe's massive frame and running style remind some observers of former Southern Cal standout LenDale White, a 6-1, 235-pounder who now plays for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.

"Rodney's favorite running back is Brandon Jacobs of the Giants," Bliss said, referring to the New York Giants' 6-4, 264-pound running back. "He also likes Adrian Peterson of Vikings. Some coaches think he's a LenDale White type - a big, old bruising back."

Although Coe won't hesitate to lower his shoulder and flatten defenders, he has much more going for him than mere heft.

"The thing that makes Rodney unique is he has great vision and a feel for where the hole will be," Bliss said. "He reads blocks well and accelerates through daylight.

"If he knows he's going down he tries to punish you but he's got a little shift and shake going, too. He can be a power back but he's deceptive in the open field. He's not just north and south; he's got a little shake to him. He's got qualities you don't see in kids that size."

Soft hands, for instance.

"He's our best receiver, too," Bliss said. "He's the total package. He can catch, run, return kicks. It's rare that you have a kid who's that caliber of athlete, so we use him as running back, middle linebacker and kick returner. Last year he ran back a kickoff 91 yards, ran out of gas and was tackled at the 1."

The trait that most separates Coe from other prospects, however, is his remarkable agility.

"He plays basketball, and he can dunk like no kid I've seen in a long time," Bliss said. "He has an incredible vertical leap. I watched him at basketball practice the other day and just shook my head. He was doing 180-degree dunks, tomahawk dunks and stuff. He's the kind of very rare athlete that I may never see again."

The game means a lot to Coe. He has football in his blood ... literally.

"He's always loved football," Bliss said. "Charlie Coe, his grandpa, was a longtime Div. 1 and NFL coach. His uncle, Michael Coe, plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, so he's got some bloodlines."

Given his grandfather's ties to Tennessee and Vol head coach Derek Dooley's well-publicized fondness for the ground game, Rodney Coe's interest in the Big Orange is understandable.

"I haven't talked to him in two to three weeks," Bliss said, "but the last time we talked about schools he mentioned Tennessee."

Landing a player of Coe's stature would give Tennessee's recruiting efforts a tremendous boost. He might be the centerpiece around whom future offenses are built.

"His potential is unlimited," Bliss said. "There's still days that I tell him he doesn't understand what he can do. That's quite a statement, considering what he's already shown he can do.

"He has a strong will, and there have been plenty of games where he literally took over and just willed his team to win."

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