Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Offensive linemen Fulton, Pair commit to play for Vols

Offensive linemen Zach Fulton and Marques Pair committed to University of Tennessee football coaches Monday afternoon, becoming the Volunteers' 10th and 11th public pledges for 2010.

Fulton, a 6-foot-5, 305-pounder from Homewood-Flossmoor High School near Chicago, is rated by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 21 guard prospect. Many Big Ten conference programs and Notre Dame have recruited him, but his only other confirmed scholarship offers so far were from Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota.

Pair, a 6-6, 255-pounder from Sumter (S.C.) High, just recently started getting major program interest. Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conference schools have been recruiting him, but UT was the only one known to make a scholarship offer.

Fulton and Pair are the third and fourth offensive players committed to the Vols for 2010, joining Kentucky fullback Channing Fugate and Miami offensive lineman Jose Jose.

Four of Tennessee's five projected starters for 2009 are seniors: left tackle Chris Scott, center Josh McNeil and guards Vlad Richard and Jacques McClendon.

"I feel great; it's a big weight off my back," Fulton told Scout.com. "I felt there was no point in waiting anymore.

"There's not any place whose facilities can match Tennessee's. There was no competition, as far as camp, academics and everything else. Everything went right."

Fulton left a UT camp four weeks ago with an offer after consistently impressing scouts and coaches. Some said he was the top lineman at the camp, which included several of the nation's top line prospects -- including Nashville's James Stone, Rivals' No. 36 overall prospect and No. 4 offensive tackle.

Pair also turned heads at that camp, according to several analysts who were present that day.

"Probably the best overall day on the offensive line was Zach Fulton's," Rivals analyst Barton Simmons said then. "He really looked good playing left guard most of the day. He really showed great strength and a great initial punch (against) the pass rush. Really, it was just a complete effort by Fulton, a guy who really saw his stock rise a lot."

The Vols are recruiting several prospects in Illinois. Most notably, they have been battling dozens of big programs for wide receiver Kyle Prater of Hillside Proviso West -- another Chicagoland school.

Prater, a 6-5, 205-pounder, is rated by Rivals as the nation's No. 3 receiver and No. 19 overall prospect.

Tennessee and several other Bowl Championship Series programs have made offers to 6-6 receiver Matt Milton from Mascoutah, Ill., near St. Louis.

Vols land 13-year-old

James Berry’s kids always have been precocious. But committing to a college football program in middle school?

Evan Berry, the 13-year-old brother of Tennessee All-America safety Eric Berry, told Rivals.com he has committed to the Volunteers. Schools can’t offer scholarships until a prospect’s junior year of high school, but that didn’t stop Evan, who will be an eighth-grader this fall at Bear Creek Middle School in Fairburn.

“He loves being at Tennessee [for practices and games],” said James Berry, who played running back for the Vols in the late 1970s. “It’s not the first time I’ve heard him say he’s going to Tennessee.”

Evan Berry plays safety and quarterback. LARRY HARTSTEIN

Trivia challenge

New Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has worn No. 88 in his NFL career. But what number did he wear in college?

No Heatley, Hossa

Don’t look for Dany Heatley or Marian Hossa to be wearing Thrashers uniforms again.

Heatley has requested a trade from the Senators. Hossa becomes a free agent from the Red Wings today.

When asked Tuesday about the possibility of either returning to the Thrashers, general manager Don Waddell said he couldn’t speak specifically about either player because they are under contract with other teams.

However, Waddell added: “It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense for us.” CHRIS VIVLAMORE

News of the day

The NCAA rejected an appeal from former Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, who was slapped with five years of potential penalties for taking part in more than 100 impermissible calls to recruits while coaching the Hoosiers.

Sampson, now an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, is essentially barred from coaching in college until 2013.

Remember me?

Want to see how last year’s No. 1 pick in the baseball draft is doing? All it requires this week is a drive to Rome.

Former Griffin High star shortstop Tim Beckham will be in Georgia through Friday playing for the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods. Game times each day are 7 p.m.

Before Tuesday night’s game against the R-Braves, Beckham was hitting .282 with three homers and 38 RBIs, but he has committed 24 errors.

Trivia answer

Gonzalez (below), who also played basketball at California, wore No. 44 in football for the Golden Bears from 1994-96.

Getting to the Game

Whenever I need Tennessee Volunteers football tickets, I find myself at Front Row King, a great place for cheap college football tickets!