Zach Fulton, an imposing 6-5, 315-pound offensive tackle prospect from Homewood High in Flossmoor, Ill., committed to the Vols at around 1:45 today during a meeting with UT head coach Lane Kiffin.
"I feel great; it's a big weight off my back," Fulton said, relieved and elated as he chatted outside the UT Football Complex. "Now I can focus on my (high school) team. I want to concentrate on winning a state championship, so I'm glad to get the recruiting process over with."
Verbal commitments are not binding but he said his decision is final and that he will not visit any more schools.
After describing himself as "more of a run blocker, a big mauler guy," the newest Vol commitment qualified by noting that "I like pass blocking a lot, and I feel I'm balanced."
Fulton made an unofficial visit to the campus in March, then returned June 1 for Tennessee's Lineman Camp. He performed so impressively in the latter that Kiffin pulled him from a film session with the other campers and formally extended a scholarship offer.
"I told him I was very happy and very excited," Fulton recalled, "and I told him I needed to talk to my family about it."
Fulton was an absolute beast at the camp, displaying tremendous punch with his hands and surprising quickness for a man so large. Basically, he left Kiffin no choice but to offer a scholarship.
"I thought I did OK," Fulton said with a laugh. "I didn't think I did THAT well. I can always do better. That's why I'm coming here ... to get better."
Already leaning to the Vols when he returned from UT's camp, Fulton got additional reinforcement from the people he trusts most.
"I talked to my dad, my uncle and my coach," he recalled. "They felt the same way I did - that Tennessee was the right place for me. I felt there was no point in waiting any more, so the third time (visit) was the charm."
Young Fulton says Tennessee essentially blew away the competition.
"There's not any place whose facilities can match Tennessee's," he said. "There was no competition, as far as camp, academics and everything else. Everything went right."
That included his meetings with UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive tackles/tight end coach James Cregg.
"They're great," Fulton said. "They have a lot of NFL experience, and that's something you want. If I get the opportunity to go to the next level I'll already be prepared for that."
Tennessee has very little offensive line depth for 2009 and will be losing four key seniors at season's end. The resulting opportunity for immediate playing time figured prominently in Fulton's decision.
"That weighed a lot," he said. "And the chance to play in the SEC makes you better. That's the main goal for me; I want to get better."