And Then There Were 3

Orson Charles

Lane Kiffin doesn't seem like the type of guy who gets excited about a moral victory but he's got to be pleased to have outlasted the Florida Gators for another one of the Sunshine State's brightest stars — Orson Charles of Tampa Plant High School.

If he's fortunate enough to sign the highly coveted Charles KIffin should be plenty excited because not only would he have secured the nation's No. 3 ranked tight end and his first five-star prospect in the Class of 2009, according to Scout.com, he would have a pay back recruiting victory over Georgia as well as USC where he served on Pete Carroll's staff for seven seasons in a variety of capacities including recruiting coordinator and offensive coordinator simultaneously.

Now as he endeavors to rebuild Tennessee on the business model that experienced such great success at Southern Cal, he needs to pick up the kind of big, fast receiver like was lost when Marlon Brown inked with the Bulldogs and broke a lot of heart in Big Orange Country. Ironically he was the first five-star receiver the state has produced since 2005 when Kiffin convinced Patrick Turner to come to the coast.

Turner had a solid four-year career as a Trojan and projects as a mid-round NFL Draft pick in April, but he never lived up to the more optimistic projections many scouts made for him. Ultimately Turner's lack of speed (4.6) kept him from becoming a deep threat and restricted him to more of a possession type or red zone receiver. Charles runs a 4.5 and is stronger than Turner was coming out of high school. He's also probably a little more athletic and tougher, though he isn't nearly as refined as Turner was a high school senior.

While Charles' trip to USC went well speculation still has Georgia as the team to beat. However UT is well positioned since it has an immediate and urgent need for a large physical target with big play potential.

It might be the road less traveled for top drawer tight end prospects, but Tennessee offers a chance to compete in the SEC and a staff rooted in USC success and steeped in NFL pedigrees. The Bulldogs took arguably the state's top two football prospects this year in Brown and Austin Long, an offensive line prospects out of Memphis. Last week UGA prevailed in a battle for the services of defensive lineman Kwame Geathers who picked the Dogs over Tennessee.

Originally Charles was planning to eliminate two schools on Wednesday, but decided to leave three in his final three. His schedule calls for an official announcement and signing in eight days, March, 6. "I am down to USC, Georgia, and Tennessee," Charles told Scout.com. "I appreciate Florida's interest and I think very highly of Urban Meyer and the Gators. This was a tough decision for my family." Coach Kiffin would like to make that decision a lot easier for Orson Charles, or a lot harder.

InsideTennessee.com Recommended Stories