Tennessee got 2006 off to a tremendous start by dismantling Cal on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Vols' early commitments, like Darris Sawtelle getting started on their own playing fields, and also keeping one close eye on how their future team performed in it's own season opener. As you might expect, they were impressed.
Michigan's Darris Sawtelle, one of the earliest commits in the class, has helped his Brother Rice team get off to a 2-0 start this season, highlighted by last Friday's trip to St. Mary's of Toledo, Ohio. A significant road trip for a high school squad, but the type of thing that Sawtelle notes is par for the course in his high school program.
"We play pretty good competition in our league games around Detroit, but our coach makes sure that we play a tough schedule," Sawtelle noted of the schedule. "In addition to going to Toledo, we're going up to Traverse City which is a six-hour drive for us."
Sawtelle is one of the more modest young men you're going to meet, but he's gotten his senior year off to such a promising start, that after a little prodding, even he admits that he's playing well.
"I've been doing great so far, I'm not going to lie," Sawtelle said with a chuckle. "I had 35 knockdown blocks (in a little over 60 plays) at St. Mary's, and I was pleased because they were big guys. They're not high school all-americans, but they had guys who were 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds."
As a senior playing with some experience Sawtelle attributes his fast start to simply being able to play at full speed without being slowed down by a lot of second-guessing.
"I think the biggest thing this year is just knowing our playbook and knowing what do do on every play without having to think about where I'm going to go," Sawtelle said. "I think it's the same for a lot of kids that go from their junior to senior year."
One thing that is allowing Sawtelle to focus on and enjoy is senior year of football is that he got his college decision out of the so early. He committed to Tennessee back in April, while in town with his family for the spring game, joining a tradition started by his grandfather, who was a fantastic player for Tennessee in the '50's.
He's got no regrets about making his early decision and getting recruiting out of the way early.
"I can see why there would be a lot of pressure on guys who are still looking around, deciding what they want, where they're going to visit," Sawtelle said of recruiting. "It was great for me because I got a scholarship offer from the school I've wanted one from since I was two-years old, so it was easy. I'm glad that the school I wanted was the first one to offer me.
Sawtelle's early commitment, snagging a nationally regarded prospect so early in the offseason, was a nice boost of momentum during a rough offseason for Tennessee. Even with his family ties to the program, many wondered if Sawtelle's commitment would hold if the Vols struggled again, or if he simply decided to re-think his options in the many months before signing day.
For his part, he said he's never had any second thoughts, and watching his future team dismantle California on Saturday night only reinforced what he's thought all along.
"I never doubted Tennessee and coach Fulmer for a second. It was great to watch them on Saturday," Sawtelle said. "I always knew that they were going to bounce back. I didn't have any concerns about that. It's a great program, and I've always wanted to be a part of it."
Art Evans (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) - Cornerback
Victory Christian/Lakeland, Fla.
Evans was one of the surprise commits of the summer, hopping in the boat early despite the fact that he's an out of state player with some options.
His high school season has gotten off to a rough start as Victory Christian, a small private school, steps up in competition to play some large schools in preparation for what Evans hopes is a strong run through his own division.
"We've lost our first two games by a total of seven points two a couple of 4A schools. We lost by three points to Auburndale, and four points to Mayo Lafayette, both of them went deep in the playoffs last year," Evans noted.
Evans has made his mark though. In the opener, he had three catches and a touchdown reception on offense to go along with nine tackles and a forced fumble from the secondary.
The second loss of the season was especially bittier, with Evans reporting that he had three touchdowns called back because of penalties, any one of which would have been the difference between winning and losing for his team.
"It was terrible, I had three called back, one on a punt return, one an interception return and one on a long pass. My coach was pretty upset, that's for sure," Evans said.
Like Sawtelle, Evans said he enjoyed watching the Vols' performance on Saturday immensely, and is looking forward with particular interest to the showdown with Florida in two weeks.
"Watching the Cal game was great," Evans said. "I knew they were going to bounce back from last season though. Tennessee's a top-program year in and year out. I knew that having a losing season was just a bump in the road.
"Now I can't wait for the Florida game, I'm real interested in that one. I may come up for an unofficial visit that day. I'm going to try my best to make it."
B.J. Coleman (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) Quarterback
Coleman had a heroic start to his season last week, leading his team to three scores, including a hail mary toss on the final play, in the last three minutes to get a win over Murfreesboro Riverdale.
This past Friday he didn't have to work as hard as McCallie cruised to 61-2 win over Briarcrest in Memphis. Coleman was 9 of 15 for 151 yards and three touchdowns before heading to the bench to watch the second half.
Tyler Maples - (6-foot-2, 180 pounds, 4.4 40-yard dash) - Wide Receiver - Maryville
After a huge opening week win over rival Alcoa, Maples and top-ranked Maryville caught a bit of a breather this past Friday, laying a 38-12 beat down on Clinton, and Maples wasn't called on to do much offensively.
He helped jump start his team's night though, snagging an interception on defense and returning it 43-yards for a score to give the Rebels a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Anderson - (6-foot-0, 175 pounds, 4.45 40-yard dash) Athlete -
Anthony Anderson continues to see his senior season off to a sour start because of some uncustomary struggles from a traditionally strong Austin-East program. The Roadrunners fell to 0-3 with a 30-19 loss at Catholic last Friday night.
Anderson had three catches for 69 yards, but continues to have problems getting enough touches to have the sort of impact he's capable of.
Todd Campbell - (6-foot-0, 183 pounds, 4.5 40-yard dash) Wide Receiver -
Campbell didn't make a dent in the boxscore on the offensive side of the ball, but his team got a big win over defending 5A champ Ravenwood in a 16-6 slugfest. Campbell was apparently kept in check thanks to injuries on his own team, which forced Franklin to go with the third-string quarterback. That seemed to understandably limit the offense, which completed only one pass in the contest.
Josh Hawkins 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, running back/athlete
Hawkins missed week one while nursing a tender hamstring, but he made up for lost time in helping Loudon to an easy 35-13 victory over Sweetwater. Hawkins carried 24 times for 171 yards. He showed his versatility as an athlete by also working a few series at quarterback where he tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Kevin Cooper (6-foot-1, 240 pounds, 4.7 40-yard dash) Fullback
In a match-up of big private schools in the state last Friday night, Cooper and Baylor fell 28-7 to a very good Brentwood Academy team. Baylor let a 7-7 game at halftime get out of hand with three third quarter turnovers.
Daryl Vereen - (5-11, 187 pounds, 4.5 40-yard dash) - Athlete -
Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburgh
Daryl Vereen continues to run wild through the first month of his high school season. This past Friday night he led North Mecklenburg to a 27-6 win over Providence with 274 yards rushing on 29 carries. He scored three touchdowns on runs of 45, 18 and one yard.
Vereen committed to the Vols without having a clear cut position at the next level, though he's been clear that he expects to get his first look at tailback. With the kind of numbers he's put up to this point, it's hard to imagine that won't be the case. Through three games this fall he's rushed for 648 yards.
Whitfield - (6-foot-0, 200 pounds, 4.5 40-yard dash) Safety -
Whitfield and Carver won a big game in Winston-Salem area on Friday night, squeaking past West Forsyth 21-15.
Defensive back C.J. Fleming[/db], doesn't begin his football season until Sept. 8.
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