March 19, 2009

Gators, Vols offer tight end

For quite a while it has been clear that the recruiting battle for Cambridge (Mass.) Buckingham Browne & Nichols junior tight end Blake Barker would be heated.

It just got a lot more fierce. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound tight end came into this week with an impressive enough offer sheet as it was. Now two more schools have joined the mix and figure to be major players.

In recent days Barker picked up offers from Florida and Tennessee. The two SEC schools joined schools such as Boston College, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Penn State, Rutgers, Stanford and Syracuse in offering Barker.

"I'm still down in Florida right now," Barker said early Thursday evening. "I'm on vacation with my family. Earlier this year I talked to Florida's tight ends coach (Brian White) and he wanted me to visit while I was down here. So I just came by to visit this week.

"I was the only (recruit) there and I talked with some of the assistant coaches and coach (Urban) Meyer. I got a tour around the campus.

"They didn't offer me that day. Coach Meyer and I had a good talk, and a couple of days later my coach was in touch with one of their coaches. He told me to call them, so I called (White) and he put coach Meyer on the phone. That's when he offered me."

The Florida staff believes Barker has what it takes to be an important part of their offense down the road.

"They've all seen my film," he continued. "They saw it as a group last week. They told me they really like how hard I work on offense and defense and they were just talking to me about how I'd fit in and how they use their tight ends."

Barker does not know quite as much about the Volunteers just yet, but he was excited when news of the offer came in from Knoxville.

"My coach told me about (the Tennessee offer). He was in contact with one of their coaches and told me to call them, so I called coach (James) Cregg, the tight ends coach. He said they were offering me a scholarship.

"Coach (Lane) Kiffin is actually in Florida right now, so I'm gonna talk to him on Monday when he gets back."

Where do the Gators and Vols stack up on his list relative to the other schools that offered before them?

"Right now I'm just taking it all in to be honest. It's all just pretty crazy. It's an honor to be offered by both. They're definitely up there.

"I don't know as much about Tennessee because I didn't visit, but when I was at Florida I saw a great football program, obviously, as well as great academics. I love the combination of football and academics they have."

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