Vol In the Family

Brent Schaeffer

Two Tennessee signees started a family tradition by inking with the Vols while another builds on a punting legend at a school known for it's kicking game.

Ellix Wilson, Memphis Melrose safety, followed brother Cedrick Wilson, a three-year starter at wide receiver and former team captain at UT. Cameron Mayo of Dalton, Ga., is the son of four-year starter and two time All-SEC guard Bill Mayo. Meanwhile Britton Colquitt builds on a UT punting pedigree following father Craig (1975-77), cousin Jimmy Colquitt (1981-1984) and brother Dustin a Ray Guy finalist last season who will be a senior this fall.

If Britton redshirts his freshman season he could become a four-year starter like Dustin will be if he stays healthy in 2004. That would make a Colquitt the Vols' No. 1 punter for 15 seasons over a 33-year span. Prior to Craig's three-year run as punter he was preceded by Neil Clabo, another Knoxville high school football product who started three seasons at UT. That would up the aforementioned figure to 18 years out of 33 that started a punter from Knoxville — a remarkable case of having homegrown talent.

Interestingly, over the 30 years between the start of Craig's punting career and the end of son Dustin's college career, Tennessee only had 12 other players from Knoxville become starters. While K-town turns out great punters the overall football numbers don't add up. However the quality of players to come from Knoxville is quite strong including such greats as Bill Bates, Mike "Stop" Cofer, Tim Irwin, John Bruhin, Joey Clinkscale, Daryle Smith, Reggie Cobb, Reggie and Raleigh McKenzie and J.J. McCleskey all of whom were drafted by and played for NFL teams. Bates, Cofer, Irwin and Raleigh McKenzie were named to Pro Bowls during enduring pro careers. The other starters from Knoxville during the last three decades are Joe Cofer (Mike's brother) and Billy Arbo. There have been special teams contributors — holders and snappers — but none that were signed to scholarships in a UT recruiting class.

The lack of numbers from Knoxville, a city of 200,000, over the last 30 years underscores a problem Tennessee faces each recruiting season, having to go out of the state to sign some 75 percent of its class. Tennessee signed prospects from 12 states in 2004, which is typical. The Vols have signed prospects from at least 10 different states seven times during Phillip Fulmer's 12 recruiting classes. In 2000 UT signed prospects from 15 different states.

Compare that Oklahoma which signed all ot its prospects from two states (Oklahoma and Texas) in 2004, or Texas which signed an entire recruiting class comprised of in-state prospects. Similarly, SEC rivals like Florida and Georgia each signed over half of their last two class from in-state prospects. In 2003 over 80 percent of the Bulldogs signees were from Georgia. LSU has put together back-to-back No. 1 rated recruiting classes made up mostly Louisiana prospects.

Back on the subject of family football tradition. There's a strong vein of gridiron genetics that runs through UT's Class of 2004 including: Brent Schaeffer, whose cousin is Brad Banks is a current NFL signal caller and was second in the Heisman Trophy in 2002. Everyone knows Eric Ainge is the nephew of former NBA and MLB player Danny Ainge, but his father also played both basketball and football at BYU as a freshman. Offensive lineman Ramon Foster has a brother who starts at Louisville while California running back Arian Foster's father, Carl, played a couple of seasons for the Denver Broncos. Casey Clausen's brother Rick was recently place on scholarship after transferring from LSU following his sophomore season and will compete for UT's starting quarterback job this season. He has a younger brother, Jimmy who will be sophomore next season and already has a year under his belt as a high school starting QB last season. Jimmy Colquitt, who is 6-3, 185, will be one of the nation's most sought after signal callers in the Class 2007. Rick will be competing against C.J. Leak, who is the older brother of Florida starter Chris Leak, this spring.

Current Vols Michael Munoz and Gerald Riggs Jr. are the sons of former NFL greats and, of course, Peyton Manning is the most famous pigskin progeny of all.

For a school like Tennessee that has to comb the country in search of football talent, cultivating family connections for qualified talent is eliminating the guess work and closing the gap.

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