UT recruiting moving ahead

John Moorehouse • Jan 21, 2007 at 7:12 AM

Go by the numbers, and Tennessee's business for this recruiting season should be finished. The Volunteers have 27 available scholarships and 27 solid commitments.

But Phillip Fulmer and his staff aren't done. This week, Tennessee is hosting three coveted in-state recruits. One, tailback/defensive back Dennis Rogan of Fulton High School in Knoxville already has committed to the Vols. The others are defensive ends - Corey Hall from Brainerd and Rae Sykes from Alcoa.

In addition, Tennessee is in the running for Jourdon Brooks, a running back/linebacker from Maryland. The Vols also have received renewed consideration from receiver Dwight Jones, who committed to North Carolina but is wavering since new Tar Heels coach Butch Davis dismissed UNC defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders, who recruited Jones.

Commitments from any of the above athletes will force the Vols to do some juggling to meet scholarship requirements. The NCAA prohibits schools from signing more than 25 recruits in a given year, but Tennessee signed just 21 last season and can count two players toward that total for a grand total of 27 possible scholarships.

It is possible that some of the current signees could "gray shirt" - the term used when a prospect waits until the following January to enroll in college.

Tennessee also could be hedging its bets regarding academic questions. The list of current commitments includes Gerald Williams, now in his third year of attempts to become academically eligible. Academic issues ended up preventing six of the Vols' signees last year from enrolling.

Having a surplus of signees would give UT wiggle room if some of the highly touted prospects end up needing to go the junior college or prep school route due to academic underperformance.

The Vols' recruiting class currently is rated as the second best in the nation according to Rivals.com.

Rivals also has elevated defensive end Ben Martin to a five-star prospect. Martin was listed at four stars when he verbally committed to Tennessee at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl earlier this month in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Eric Berry - the crown jewel in UT's class - has climbed from fourth to third on Rivals' list of top prospects in the nation.

SEARS HONORED: Offensive tackle Arron Sears earned the Tennessee Sports Writers Association's Player of the Year award.

Sears won the Southeastern Conference Jacobs Trophy - given to the top blocker in the league - and closed his career with 32 consecutive starts. He had 71 knockdown blocks for the Vols during the 2006 campaign.

Sears is expected to be a first-day pick in the April NFL draft.

HEAD TO HEAD: It's still a long way to go until the Third Saturday in October, but Nick Saban already is butting heads with Phillip Fulmer - on the recruiting trail.

Less than a week since he accepted the coaching job at Alabama, Saban contacted at least two of Tennessee's verbally committed recruits.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported Friday that Saban called offensive line prospect Darris Sawtelle on Jan. 9, the same day the player moved onto the UT campus. Sawtelle enrolled early for spring semester classes and was still open to talk to other schools until he began taking those classes.

Saban also spoke to Maryville's Tyler Maples. In both cases, he was rebuffed.

GOOD NEWS: Jeff Samardzija's decision to give up football and play for the Chicago Cubs is good news for Robert Meachem. That's one less highly touted receiver Meachem will be competing against come draft day.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had Samardzija rated ahead of Meachem as an NFL prospect, although both were in his overall top 25. Now, Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson, Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. and Southern California's Dwayne Jarrett are the only ones ranked ahead of Meachem.

Scouts Inc. has Meachem 28th in its rankings of the top 32 prospects available.

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