Paige was the first to give UT coaches reason to celebrate on National Signing Day when the 6-foot-3, 175-pounder from Sterlington (La.) High signed with the Vols over Southern Cal shortly after 10 a.m.
"It was real tight," said Paige, rated as the No. 14 pass-catcher nationwide by Rivals.com. "I thought for a second I was going to have to flip a coin."
Fortunately for UT, Paiges decision wasnt left up to chance. He selected the Vols based on several factors, including proximity and the possibility of immediate playing time.
"I wanted a chance to play," said Paige, who should have a good opportunity since UT lost its three top receivers from 2006. "I cant wait to get on the field next year."
Paige also cited his relationship with UT receivers coach Trooper Taylor.
"He kept it honest with me," Paige said. "Thats what it came down to in the end. I know Im going to be taken care of at Tennessee."
Paige said he was also worried about the prospect that USC may be penalized because of an investigation of whether former running back Reggie Bush or his parents took improper payments from agents while Bush was playing there.
The good news continued for UT when Sykes took the podium shortly after 1 p.m. Sykes selected UT over Florida State despite a close relationship with former teammate Brandon Warren. Last year Warren picked the Seminoles over the Vols and was named a Freshman All-American tight end.
Sykes said a visit by UT coach Phillip Fulmer last week convinced him.
"It was like he hypnotized me with his eyes," the 6-4, 245-pounder said. "I couldnt come out of it. He just talked to me and my mom and my grandmother. I took it under consideration and last night the Lord told me where I should go. Im a Volunteer."
Sykes signing doesnt mean hell join the Vols this summer. The News Sentinels second best prospect in Tennessee has more than his fair share of academic work to complete.
Sykes admitted hell probably be forced to attend prep school this fall before he enrolls at UT. Still, thats better than a two-year stop at a junior college.
"Ive been on my grades tough," Sykes said. "I had a little problem, a little minor surgery, and I missed a couple of days at school. But, Im trying to climb back and get out of that hole. I feel Ill do just fine and take care of my business.
"I have a long way to go. I feel like its to see how bad I really want it. And as bad as I do want it, I feel like I can get it."
As well as UT closed Wednesday, it was almost even better.
Receiver Dwight Jones from Cummings High in Burlington, N.C. stuck by his year-long commitment to North Carolina instead of picking the Vols. The 6-4, 210-pounder woke up Wednesday morning intent on signing with UT but changed his mind minutes before his announcement, according to Cummings coach Steve Johnson.
Jones was swayed by a former high school teammate, Durrell Mapp, who is a junior linebacker at North Carolina, a source close to Jones recruitment said. An Associated Press story Wednesday said Clemson wanted Dwight Jones, but he was reportedly rejected by an administrator because of academic concerns.
UT nearly pulled Marquise Maze out of Birmingham, Ala., but the Tarrant High receiver signed with Alabama.
There was some concern the Vols could lose two commitments Wednesday, but both signed with UT.
Receiver Gerald Jones from Millwood High in Oklahoma City was the topic of Internet chatter that feared hed sign elsewhere. Defensive tackle Rolando Melancon from Lutcher (La.) High also gave UT a scare when he took an official visit to Alabama last weekend.
Melancon maintained all along he only went to Tuscaloosa for a "vacation" and was firmly committed to UT.