On Monday the Vols picked up the commitment of Eric Berry, a multitalented, five-star prospect out of Creekside High School in Fairburn, Ga, who is rated the nation’s No. 1 cornerback by Scout.com.
“Eric called me and said he committed today,” Creekside Head Coach Kevin Whitley told Scout.com’s Jamie Newberg. “I always encouraged him to take all five of his official visits but I think in the end things just got too hectic for him. You know Eric and his family have a history with Tennessee and that’s a place where I know he feels comfortable. He will also play early for the Vols.”
The announcement by Berry brought to an end a recruiting battle that had been brewing for years between Tennessee and Georgia for what is perhaps the best prospect grown in the Peach State since Champ Bailey. Ohio State, Auburn, USC, Florida and Miami were among the other schools he considered from a collection of over 50 offers.
However in the end Berry followed the same path blazed by his father James Berry, a former Parade High School All-American who started at tailback for two years (1980-81) at UT under Johnny Majors.
"Dad going there was a factor,” Berry said. “And I wanted to fill his shoes. I have some pretty big shoes to fill, but it should be fun."
The 6-foot, 195-pound Berry starred at quarterback, safety and return specialist for the Seminoles this fall, leading his team to a 12-1 record while gaining over 2,000 yards total offense. He finished with 16 career interceptions, and could get a chance to display his dazzling diversity at Tennessee.
"Yeah, in certain situations like (Darren) McFadden,” he said of UT’s plans to use him at quarterback. “That's okay. Whatever it takes to win. They told me the plan, so I was okay with that.”
Obviously, with his frightening 4.31 speed Berry can be a valuable weapon wherever he lines up. His first order of business could be to fill one of the immediate openings at the corners where senior starters Jonathan Wade and Antwan Stewart leave big holes.
"They want me to play both sides of the ball,” Berry said. “Both corners left and they're in need of some defensive backs. They are losing one wide receiver and may be losing another, so hopefully I can go in there and just compete for some playing time."
Although he has official visits set for Ohio State and USC in January, Berry said he will cancel both and will only take an official visit to Tennessee, where he will try to convince other top notch prospects to join him in a class that is gaining some serious traction over the last 10 days with the commitments California JUCO cornerback DeAngelo Willingham and wide receiver Kenny O’Neal along with Memphis Christian Brothers linebacker Chris Walker.
"I'm just going to take the trip up to Knoxville in January," said Berry who said the whole matter came down to a positive feeling he had for Tennessee. "I just felt it. It was a lot of factors, the coaches they are genuine and straightforward.”
Berry was voted the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Georgia and was one of the first players named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.