Commentary

Tennessee loaded with linemen

Originally Published: November 22, 2010
By Craig Haubert | ESPN Recruiting

It's a big year for big men in the state of Tennessee. Of the top 10 players, six are offensive linemen and if you add in defensive tackle prospect Terry Redden (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven), only three of the state's top prospects don't reside in the trenches. Tennessee is home to two top-25 offensive tackles, led by the state's top prospect, Antonio Richardson (Nashville, Tenn./Pearl-Cohn), a top-10 center, and a pair of top-30 guard prospects. The Volunteer state is also home to a good group of three-star prospects like offensive tackle Ryan Mack (Memphis, Tenn./Wooddale), a Louisville commit, and running back Artaves Gibson (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell), a Memphis commit. This year's class might not be Tennessee's strongest crop of talent, but overall it is a pretty solid and fairly typical offering from the state.

Top prospect

Richardson
Richardson
OT Antonio Richardson
There are not a lot of questions about the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Richardson. He possesses a good combination of size, athleticism, playing strength and aggressiveness. He can push defenders off the ball, moves well, can stay on his feet and block in space and is also a productive downfield blocker. He has the ability to be a good pass protector as he can get set quickly, bend and mirror. It also helps that Richardson has long arms, quick hands and can deliver a good punch to pass-rushers. The four-star tackle prospect can play, but the question may be how soon? Richardson cut his high school season short and transferred high schools about a month ago in hopes of improving his academic situation. You don't like to see a prospect walk away from his senior season and miss time, but if he can take care of business off the field like he shows he can on it, the uncommitted prospect should be a fine college lineman.

Remember this name

Downs
Downs
Brendan Downs (Bristol, Tenn./Tennessee)
The Duke Blue Devils thought they had landed themselves a pretty good tight end prospect out of Tennessee, but in the end the Vols didn't let this in-state prospect get away. There is no one aspect of Downs' game that just wows you, but he has the ability to be a very well-rounded and productive college tight end. He has good height, a frame to develop and displays good straight-line speed. He is not a natural receiver, but he can catch and contribute to the passing game. He needs polish and needs to develop his technique, but Downs is a tough kid who works as a blocker and should become a productive one at the next level. There are more athletic and polished tight ends out there in this class, but Downs has the tools to be a good player who can help the Vols' offense as a blocker and as a pass-catcher.

Taking up residence

Here are the colleges that are doing best with prospects from Tennessee:

Tennessee
Coach Derek Dooley's top-25 class is led by out-of-state prospects, but he has landed some talent from within his own borders. The Volunteers have commitments from five in-state prospects, including promising tight end Downs. Maybe most importantly the Volunteers have taken advantage the depth of offensive line talent available in the state. With an offense that ranks near the bottom in the nation in sacks allowed and is in need of offensive line help, Tennessee has verbals from two of the state's three top line prospects in tackle Kyler Kerbyson (Knoxville, Tenn./Catholic) and center Mack Crowder (Bristol, Tenn./Tennessee).

Duke
Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe is well known in the Volunteer State and he has his biggest crop of players from the state since taking over at Duke. Cutcliffe has commitments from four prospects from Tennessee, led by a pair of three-star guards in Cody Robinson (McMinnville, Tenn./Warren County) and Lucas Patrick (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood). Duke's haul from Tennessee also includes three-star inside linebacker David Helton (Chattanooga, Tenn./Baylor), a tough player with the size and athleticism to be a well-rounded player at the position.

Alabama
The Crimson Tide's No. 2-ranked class includes only one prospect from the Volunteer State, but that one verbal is the state's No. 2 prospect Jabriel Washington (Jackson, Tenn./Trinity Christian Academy). The top-30 athlete is slight in build, but he is a versatile and electric player who could help Alabama in a few ways.

Vanderbilt
The Commodores are trying to benefit from the state's deep group of big men. Of the four in-state prospects that have committed, three are offensive linemen, led by OT James Lewis (Arlington, Tenn.), who is a tough run blocker with upside as a pass protector.

Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.