Linebackers still target for Vols

Highly touted linebacker Lateek Townsend

SAN ANTONIO - Tennessee's future at linebacker was nationally televised Wednesday night, as four-star A.J. Johnson plowed through the backfield and made a number of big hits in the Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The only problem: Johnson provides plenty of strength, but, because he's been committed since September, doesn't help puff up the Vols' currently low numbers at linebacker heading into National Signing Day.

Johnson (Gainesville, Ga.) and lesser-touted three-star Christian Harris (Woodstock, Ga.) are the only two linebackers committed to UT for the class of 2011, a year where plenty of questions swirling over the Vols will center on their ability to replace Nick Reveiz and LaMarcus Thompson.

Three of the 16 linebackers who will take the Alamodome field at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Saturday (TV: WBIR, 1 p.m.) are major targets on UT's radar, and it appears all three will at least consider the Vols before they respectively announce their final decisions.

The first could come as soon as halftime Saturday, as four-star Lateek Townsend (Bennettsville, S.C.) will announce his commitment at some point during the live broadcast.

Townsend (6-foot-2, 197 pounds) said he arrived at his decision some time this week, as he received feedback from a number of committed players who outlined why they liked their respective schools of choice and what turned them off from going elsewhere.

None of those teammates, though, have a clue what hat Townsend will do on Saturday. In between practice Thursday, Townsend, who is considered the eighth-ranked linebacker in the nation by Rivals.com, wouldn't even divulge what hats will be on the table.

"I took the schools and I said 'Let's take football away. Would I go to this school if it wasn't for football?' " Townsend said. "That helped me eliminate a lot of it because a lot of people tell you to go to school for national championships."

Townsend has yet to visit UT and he admitted contact has been minimal since initial talks with coach Derek Dooley and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, but he did not rule out the Vols. He said he has consulted with former Vol linebacker Robert Ayers, who is now with the NFL's Denver Broncos and played his high school ball at the same high school as Townsend, Marlboro County.

"He had to leave the state and most of our players that left the state are successful," Townsend said. "Some of the ones that stayed in the state weren't too successful. He just said you got to get away and experience things other than where you're at in South Carolina."

Lamar Dawson (Danville, Ky.) admitted Thursday that he had been feeling pressure from some of his hometown friends to stay in-state with either Kentucky or Louisville. His final three official visits, however, indicate that he's turning a deaf ear to it all.

Actually, he's developed his own technique to ignore all the chatter.

"I just nod my head," he said.

Dawson, who is considered the No. 8 inside linebacker in the nation and No. 1 overall prospect in Kentucky by 247sports.com, will visit Southern Cal on Jan. 14, Central Florida on Jan. 21 and UT on Jan. 28. He will announce his decision on National Signing Day on Feb. 2.

"They're all great schools," Dawson said. "I just have to find the place that's right for me."

Because of the glut of linebackers on both rosters, Dawson (6-foot-2, 230) has played exclusively on the outside this week despite his projection to play in the middle at college. He said he liked the versatility he has been able to display, something that might come in handy when he hopes to achieve his goal of playing regularly as a freshman.

"That's a big factor," Dawson said.

C.J. Johnson (Philadelphia, Miss.) stuck with his commitment to Mississippi State, which was made during his junior year, through a number of Bulldogs' coaching changes, but Wednesday's departure of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to Texas was the final straw. He re-opened his recruitment shortly after the news broke and will visit Ole Miss and LSU later in the month.

Johnson (6-foot-3, 227) said he loved what he heard from Wilcox when he recently stopped by for an in-home visit.

"He's a great guy," Johnson said. "I kind of got a chance to watch Tennessee on TV a little bit, liked the scheme. They blitz a lot. He's definitely a coach I wouldn't mind playing for."

Johnson said he hasn't had much contact with the Vols since Wilcox's visit, but would be open to hear from UT over the final month, especially now that he's a free agent for the second time.

"The younger guys, they kind of bring more intensity to the table," Johnson said. "That's something you look for as a freshman coming into a college, a coach that will get you pumped up every day for practice.

"There are days when you're down and out, and it's definitely fun."

Andrew Gribble covers Tennessee football and recruiting. He may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble/

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Comments » 41

CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED writes:

Posted on the Mallet thread, but a little better fit here:

Bellamy (Clemson commit) is taking his visit to Clemson next weekend, and Clowney is giving Bama a close look, since Clemson DE coach Rumph just went there. Would really like to see UT get him in for a visit.

As far as Townsend goes, I think UT is a longshot, but he wants to get away from SC..If you have ever been to Bennettsville, SC you would understand his thinking.

RoadTrip writes:

Need one or two of these guys. The cupboard is not bare, just needs a regular restocking.

osVOLdoS writes:

go get'em CDD!!

cloudodust writes:

AJ Johnson must be inked. CLK sought this guy out and this guy wants to be a Vol. Ink this guy, CDD..! He'll be a name to remember, ala Hacksaw.

Pullingguard writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

Need one or two of these guys. The cupboard is not bare, just needs a regular restocking.

A concern to sign either is reflected in their saying UT has not been in touch since initial visits.. That will not get many players in this hot period of contact. Hope UT staff has not put themselves on pedstal as to where they think one visit will close the deal.

UTengr36 writes:

4 star OL Alex Bullard is transferring from ND to Rocky Top. Just saw it on his facebook wall.

Bogus writes:

in response to UTengr36:

4 star OL Alex Bullard is transferring from ND to Rocky Top. Just saw it on his facebook wall.

Yup. He's applying for a hardship with the NCAA so he could play immediately. Father passed away.

BamaVol writes:

Former Brentwood Academy offensive lineman Alex Bullard is coming back home to the University of Tennessee. The four star offensive lineman and the No. 7 rated guard in the country spent the last two years at Notre Dame.

UTByrd writes:

Probst will turn out to be all SEC. We still need to get these other guys. We've got Wilcox and Smith, now we just need a few more top notch players in order to have an incredible defense next season.
Go VOLS!!!!!

UTByrd writes:

Sorry to hear about Alex's father passing. It's never easy losing a loved one. My heart and prayers go out to Alex and his family.
Go VOLS!!!!!

wazzya69vol writes:

in response to UTByrd:

Sorry to hear about Alex's father passing. It's never easy losing a loved one. My heart and prayers go out to Alex and his family.
Go VOLS!!!!!

I agree UTByrd. It's tough being that far away, and losing a loved one, especially a parent. Our prayers need to be for him and his family. It would be nice if the NCAA would grant him "hardship" so he could play immediately, but if not, that's okay also. He's a young man hurting, not a "product". By the way, I'm still laughing at your joke about golf game amongst Moses and Jesus. Remember? :-) GBO!!

VolinCalif writes:

in response to wazzya69vol:

I agree UTByrd. It's tough being that far away, and losing a loved one, especially a parent. Our prayers need to be for him and his family. It would be nice if the NCAA would grant him "hardship" so he could play immediately, but if not, that's okay also. He's a young man hurting, not a "product". By the way, I'm still laughing at your joke about golf game amongst Moses and Jesus. Remember? :-) GBO!!

I was a petty good golfer and I love golf jokes. I am sure that I have never heard this one, if you can't post it you can use the Govol dir. to send it to me. Thanks The old one. Just a little younger than Moses.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to WEAREBETTERTHANVANDY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I find it amazing how the scum bag trolls are on this site 24/7. That makes no sense

jimr07 writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

I find it amazing how the scum bag trolls are on this site 24/7. That makes no sense

this sounds like naffy. i wondered where he had been? mama let him out of the basement again.

PUL4VOLS writes:

I wish all the raggin' trolls on here who down Dooley for not giving attention to all the elite big time players would shut up! He does the best he can and there is a)only so much time one can give, b)only so many of those far out fancied divas who are really interested in UT. Because they say it does not necessarily mean they are that interested. I trust our head coach and staff know who really might become Volunteers and they follow up accordingly. So let's see how they fare when signing day is here and past.
We have some good lbs looking us over and hopefully there will be more.

richvol writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

I was a petty good golfer and I love golf jokes. I am sure that I have never heard this one, if you can't post it you can use the Govol dir. to send it to me. Thanks The old one. Just a little younger than Moses.

Me too...

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Big D linemen and fast LB's =

success.

GBO

easleychuck writes:

Whomever Townsend commits to on Saturday will, I predict, not be his ultimate destination. UT does not appear to have much of a chance. Once the visits start things always get real interesting. If he were to visit, obviously, their chances would improve.

Unless the weather and Kiffie's BS turn Dawson's head on his USC visit, I believe that he could be a signing day surprise for UT. Holding off on announcing is the smart thing to do when you are the #1 guy in a state and being pressured to stay.
As for the Johnson kid from Mississippi, it appears that UT is not really actively recruiting him. Who knows why? It could be grades or something else.
I have no inside knowledge of any of this, just my thoughts.

I do think that the reason that the commits have slowed down is that now the kids who commit will be after the January official visits. I do believe that UT will get some good ones to add to a solid class of decent kids.

Ironcity writes:

Not sure why Gribble keeps writing about guys that have no interest in us? If a guy hasn't visited or the coaches haven't spoken to him in months, he is not coming.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Big D linemen and fast LB's =

success.

GBO

That can tackle.

CoverOrange writes:

According to Rivals, Townsend has only taken two visits out of 20 schools that have offered. Strange if he has already made up his mind but appears he is looking at the big picture. Rivals also indicates he may be a bit of a project to learn defensive schemes and bulk up some unless he is turned into a safety. If Wilcox is preferring impact players this year, can see why not to spend much time recruiting him. But he could be a good one in a couple of years.

gnm53108 writes:

Looks like yaw have some weather up there on the hill.

Snowing,sleetin or both?

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to WEAREBETTERTHANVANDY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You have no more value to this site than a fart has in a closed room.Your mouth has a bad case of the runs.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Lamar Dawson sounds like a better fit for us PLUS he has visited us a few times, already, with his offical visit later this month.

Typically, kid's who don't or haven't visited are not gonna sign.

Welcome Alex Bullard!

TommyJack writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sure, Shen. And you can continue to get tingles at how the Tiders "fill out their uniforms".
No wonder Farragut insisted you live at least 1000yds from any school. Bwahahahha

lomas98 writes:

in response to BamaVol:

Former Brentwood Academy offensive lineman Alex Bullard is coming back home to the University of Tennessee. The four star offensive lineman and the No. 7 rated guard in the country spent the last two years at Notre Dame.

That is great that he was a 4 star recruit, but that was 2 years ago. How has he been performing while at ND? Has he played? I'm just not familiar with him. His stars 2 years ago mean absolutely nothing at this point.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Dooley's big surprise = Curtis Grant

lomas98 writes:

"I kind of got a chance to watch Tennessee on TV a little bit, liked the scheme. They blitz a lot.

That is great that is his perception if that helps his decision, but I'm not sure what games he saw on tv that we blitzed a lot.

UTByrd writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

I was a petty good golfer and I love golf jokes. I am sure that I have never heard this one, if you can't post it you can use the Govol dir. to send it to me. Thanks The old one. Just a little younger than Moses.

Here it goes: Moses and Jesus went golfing one day. Moses is up first and drives his ball into the pond. Jesus proceeds to do the same. No problem. Moses walks to the edge of the pond, parts the water, gets his sand wedge and holes out. Jesus walks on the water, holds his hand out, the ball rises to the surface and he holes out from there.
A grizzled old man tees off behind them, hits the same pond, a large mouth bass grabs the ball, an eagle flying over snatches the bass and starts flying off. The bass wiggles out of the eagles grasp, falls out of the air onto the green, the impact pops the ball out of the bass, it rolls 35 feet with a 15 foot break and drops in the cup for a hole-in-one.
Moses looks over at Jesus and says, "I hate playing golf with your Dad."

Hope this brings a smile and, as always...

Go VOLS!!!!!

UTByrd writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

I was a petty good golfer and I love golf jokes. I am sure that I have never heard this one, if you can't post it you can use the Govol dir. to send it to me. Thanks The old one. Just a little younger than Moses.

Talk about being old. An elderly friend of mine says that he is so old, he was born when the Dead Sea started getting sick. lol

Go VOLS!!!!!

Volchief writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks for the Tide update shen. Honestly, when I woke up this morning, the first thing that came to mind was a strong concern for saban's 2012 recruiting class. It really was! Thanks again lil guy

rockytopatl writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Not sure why Gribble keeps writing about guys that have no interest in us? If a guy hasn't visited or the coaches haven't spoken to him in months, he is not coming.

As a former journalist, let me give you some insight. These all-star games are a virtual gangbang, tons of reporters all vying to talk to the top prospects. Most of the players don't talk to reporters at all, or if they do, only a select few. Only some of them talk to writers they haven't met before, and Gribble is new on the beat. The problem you have at any of these things as a visiting writer is that the access time -- the only chance to interview players -- is short and infrequent. Bottom line: You don't have a chance to talk to many players and you end up writing about the ones you were able to talk to. His problem most likely is that he's not been able to talk to the big UT targets.

For what it's worth, I think his coverage of recruiting has been light years better than the stuff Hooker used to produce.

HtownVol writes:

Well, it looks like UT will have the best O-Line in the country in a year or two. Funny how a few months ago it was panic on the line and next year we will be able to plug a all-american, 4 star or top 10 O-Lineman at every position on the line. I just hope we keep signing a few each year so we never have that situation again.

Speaking of LBs, I will ask for the tenth time....
WHERE IS J ASKEW?
He was a 4 star and top 10 LB recruit.
No one seems to know why this kid has not played or if he is even on the team anymore.

AJ johnson is gonna be a great player at UT. I would love to get another LB but I really want to seem about 3 more D-Linemen sign. LB is low but we have enough.
A couple years ago we signed a few LBs that looked like really good prospects.
R Nelson, what happened to him? I saw him playing last year but not this season. The kid had almost 200 tackles his sr year in HS. Thorton and King have also played well.

GO VOLS!

FarmerVol writes:

in response to AF1A4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agree, except I think we learned a couple of weeks ago what not having a running game can do to your end of game planning. Need to add a 230 lb groundpounding straight ahead bulldozer back to get some balance and some better frogging pass blocking.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

Dooley's big surprise = Curtis Grant

I agree that would be quite a surprise.

http://recruiting.scout.com/a.z?s=73&...

How do you know this could be a "Dooley Surprise"???

orangecountyvols writes:

HTown,

Thanks for bringing Askew's name up. I was going to ask that same question.

Seems somehow he has disappeared and yes, he was a special one in H S.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to FarmerVol:

Agree, except I think we learned a couple of weeks ago what not having a running game can do to your end of game planning. Need to add a 230 lb groundpounding straight ahead bulldozer back to get some balance and some better frogging pass blocking.

Dropadooley,

I like your thinking in reference to a bulldozer of a running back. Yes, at the end of the UNC game it would have been nice, of course we had to have had run blocking also.

Va Tech can agree to how much damage a good running back can do. ( I believe that was the game in which the fullback/linebacker was special. )

txsvol#372416 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

Well, it looks like UT will have the best O-Line in the country in a year or two. Funny how a few months ago it was panic on the line and next year we will be able to plug a all-american, 4 star or top 10 O-Lineman at every position on the line. I just hope we keep signing a few each year so we never have that situation again.

Speaking of LBs, I will ask for the tenth time....
WHERE IS J ASKEW?
He was a 4 star and top 10 LB recruit.
No one seems to know why this kid has not played or if he is even on the team anymore.

AJ johnson is gonna be a great player at UT. I would love to get another LB but I really want to seem about 3 more D-Linemen sign. LB is low but we have enough.
A couple years ago we signed a few LBs that looked like really good prospects.
R Nelson, what happened to him? I saw him playing last year but not this season. The kid had almost 200 tackles his sr year in HS. Thorton and King have also played well.

GO VOLS!

We have enough LBs? Depending on injuries, we never have enough of any position where the injury bug hits. We need at least two deep with fast, good-tackling LBs, and the rest can be used on special teams, or double as DEs, safeties, or fullbacks. I agree with you about giving the priority to DT, though. Go Vols! SAVol

txsvol#372416 writes:

Hey, Guys: Are Chuck Smith and Coach Dooley after Ray Drew, Jr.? They really ought to be! Check out http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011....

Go Vols! SAVol

FarmerVol writes:

in response to AF1A4:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Crowell at 220 and Neal at 210 would be helpful. Neal looked lighter as season went along. 180-190. Still - 230 puts the fear of maim and mutilation in the hearts of those dink 175 lb DBs and wears out those 230 lb LBs IMHO.

dgcarter43 writes:

For those asking about Jerod Askew, he is still listed as a freshman at 5'11"-236.

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