Gionni on the spot

One of America's fastest linebacker prospects is giving the Tennessee Vols a long look.

Gionni Paul, a 6-foot, 223-pounder from Kathleen High School in Lakeland, Fla., boasts 4.47 speed over 40 yards. He runs the 100 and 200 meter dashes for the school track team, also competing in the long jump and triple jump.

Rated a 3-star prospect by Scout.com, Gionni (pronounced Jee-ahnee) plays middle linebacker for his high school team but is ranked No. 19 among America's outside linebacker prospects. He might play yet another position if he signs with the Vols.

"They say I could play all three (linebacker positions) and possibly some strong safety," he told InsideTennessee.com. "Strong safety is what I played my freshman and sophomore year, so it wouldn't be much different. I moved to middle linebacker my junior year because I can see the whole field and the coaches needed somebody for that position."

Whatever position he winds up playing in college, Paul believes he'll play it well.

"I think if I work hard I've got a great future," he said. "I just fly to the ball and bring it every play."

His stats suggest as much. He recorded 155 tackles as a sophomore and another 159 as a junior in 2009. He intercepted four passes last fall, returning one for a touchdown. He also scored three rushing TDs as a running back.

Although he has potential as a rusher, Paul makes no secret that he wants to play linebacker at the college level.

"I guess I like flying around and hitting people," he said.

A strong student with a 3.6 grade-point average, Paul says he already has scholarship offers from Tennessee, LSU, Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Auburn, Washington State, Louisville, South Florida, Florida State and Western Kentucky, among others.

Although he says he has no favorites at this time, Paul seems to like the Vols quite a bit.

"I know Tennessee and LSU will be visits," he said. "I haven't decided on the other three yet."

Paul, who is being recruited by Vol quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw, has not met Derek Dooley in person but has spoken to the first-year Vol coach long-distance.

"I talked to him twice on the phone," Paul said. "He's a good man with great character. He's humble, real honest. I trust him."

Paul has said he might try to graduate in December and enroll in college at mid-term, so he can participate in spring practice as a freshman. He won't rush the decision, however.

"I might go right up to National Signing Day," he said. "I have a brother (Miguel) who went to the University of Missouri (on a basketball scholarship), didn't like it there and now he's at East Carolina. I don't want to make the same mistake he did, so I'm going to take my time."


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