The problem is further compounded by the fact the Vols have yet to land a cornerback in the 2004 recruiting class. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Manning projects as a player who could come in and contribute early in man coverage against opponents' slot receivers.
As a senior, Joe Manning recorded 67 tackles, intercepted five passes, blocked four punts and recorded a sack. Deceptively strong for his size — he benches 260 pounds — Manning is a physical DB with superb press-coverage skills who runs a 4.42 time in the 40.
He's also an outstanding athlete who stars in center field for Lincoln's baseball team, plays on the varsity basketball team and anchors the state's fastest four-by-100 meter relay team. He's a three-year starter for the Trojans who have averaged sending nine players to Division I schools over that time.
"I try to be real aggressive when I play football," Manning told The Insiders Auburn site. "That is what you need to do to be successful as a defensive player."
Manning visited Syracuse, Nebraska and Auburn before Tennessee and he will visit hometown Florida State this weekend. He has eliminated both Syracuse and Nebraska and will choose between the Vols, Tigers and Seminoles.
"It was a pretty good trip, going up there with my two teammates and enjoying ourselves," Manning said upon his return from Tennessee. "They really have some nice facilities, including a huge, huge stadium. This trip kind of stands out. They were redoing their locker room, so we couldn't go in there. But they had our jerseys with our names on them and we got to run into the stadium like it was the Super Bowl. They had cheerleaders and the band there. It was fun."
Although it's difficult to evaluate the potential of corners because they rarely see the quality of receivers and passers they do in college, Manning has played against speed receivers and accomplished passers during his career at Lincoln. He recognizes the opportunity to play early at Tennessee and feels he would fit well into the scheme.
"They are losing four defensive backs — three were starters in their base package and the fourth was a starter in their dime package, and they were in their dime package 40 percent of the time," Manning said. "I will get the chance to compete (for a role) in the dime package on that inside receiver, where I can either blitz or still cover."
Manning expects to make his announcement on national signing day, but if NSD was today he'd likely be a Vol.