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"Eric called me and said he committed today," said Creekside Head Coach Kevin Whitley. "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."
He had a spectacular senior season for Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside High School, leading the Seminoles deep into the playoffs before losing to The Marist School in the third round 24-6. Creekside finished 12-1 as Berry played quarterback, defensive back and returned kicks. Berry finished with 16 career interceptions, mainly playing safety. Offensively, he rolled up over 2,500 yards of total offense and was the state champion in the 200 meters as a sophomore.
This is a huge pick up for the Vols, as great corner prospects are at an all-time premium, especially as more teams in the SEC are going to the passing game and the spread offense. Berry is a spectacular athlete and arguably the state's best cornerback prospect since Champ Bailey (Folkston, Ga.).
"Eric is not only the best player I have ever coached but the best player I have ever seen in Georgia," said Whitley. "He is a good student and a great kid. The way he plays football is only part of it with him."
Berry projects likely as a cornerback at the next level although he is also talented enough to play wide receiver. First of all, Berry has great explosion and can start and stop and then be at full speed very quickly. He has great feet, quickness and hips to turn with anyone. Berry's tough and physical and doesn't avoid contact. He is certainly talented enough to make an immediate contribution to Phillip Fulmer's defense.
This is a critical prospect for Tennessee as Berry is one of the top overall athletes in the country. He also shores up a very good cornerback group. Art Evans (Lakeland, Fla.), C.J. Fleming (Highland Springs, Va.) and DeAngelo Willingham (Palm Desert, Calif.) give Tennessee one of the top corner classes in the country. Other big time prospects headed to Knoxville are defensive ends Rufus Williams (Titusville, Fla.) and Gerald Williams (Fork Union, Va.), linebacker Chris Walker, wide receivers Brett Vinson (Chatham, Va.) and Kenny O'Neal (San Francisco, Calif.), offensive lineman Darris Sawtelle (Bloomfield, Mi.) and running back Gerald Jones (Oklahoma City, Ok.).
Tennessee is not done yet. The top prospect in the state is Chris Donald (Huntingdon, Tenn.) and he is also the nation's top strong side linebacker prospect. Donald is down to the Vols and Fighting Irish. He will announce his decision in January at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and Tennessee will be tough to beat. Two other big name prospects looking hard at UT are Morgan Burnett (College Park, Ga.) and Harrison Smith (Knoxville, Tenn.).
The bottom line is that the Vols are back. They may not land the top class in the land, but Tennessee should certainly find themselves finishing in the top 10, especially with players like Berry.
Around the Nation with Allen Wallace
Four-star safety Chad Jones, from Southern University Lab High School in Baton Rouge (La.), had favored LSU for awhile and admits that the Tigers were where he thought he'd end up. But things have gotten more complicated as a result of his official visit to USC on Dec. 9. Jones now says it's a toss up between the Tigers and Trojans.
Ranked as the No. five safety in the country by Scout.com, the 6-foot-3, 232 pounder with 4.5 forty-yard dash speed, really enjoyed his trip to Los Angeles. "I love it out in California," Jones said. "They are one of my top schools now. I thought I was going to go to LSU, but visiting USC really opened my eyes."
Jones' player hosts were sophomore linebacker Brian Cushing and junior fullback/linebacker Thomas Williams. "We went into Hollywood and drove around all the nice houses and stuff," Jones said. "Los Angeles is probably the biggest city I've ever been to.
"I really loved all the players," Jones said. "They are real young and they'll be around for a long time. It's really like the perfect place. The coaches were great too because they work hard, but have fun too. I got to see them practice and it was very intense and very focused.
"Coach Ken Norton is the one that's been recruiting me and he's real cool. He reminds me of my dad, and I feel comfortable talking with him," Jones said. "Coach Pete Carroll really gives you a lot to think about. He talks a lot and I really liked listening to him. When he talks, you listen. He really smart."
Jones now lists USC and LSU as his favorites. The Trojans and Tigers have a solid lead over Florida, Florida State (Jan. 12 official trip) and Miami. "It's really between LSU and USC right now," Jones said. "I love them both. LSU is home and all my family and friends could see me play. My brother (defensive end Rahim Alem) goes there, and I already know all the coaches and players really well.
"But I loved California and the USC coaches really stand out," he said. "I love how they aren't scared to play freshman. Every year they play more freshman than any other school and they are always one of the top teams in the country."
Jones says he won't be making his announcement until Signing Day, Feb. 7.
Southern University Lab High School 11-3, with Jones credited for 138 tackles, 12 interceptions (six for touchdowns) and and five fumbles caused. Offensively, he had 464 yards and 12 touchdowns.
California offensive lineman Darrion Weems has narrowed his choices to four schools: Oregon, Florida, Arizona and Washington, with the Ducks leading slightly.
Two schools that used to be in Weems' top five which didn't make the final cut are Colorado and Nebraska. "We just kind of fell out of contact," said the Scout.com four-star prospect. "They kept sending letters, but stopped calling and didn't seem too interested."
"I've been up to Oregon before, and I know the coaches pretty well already," said Weems, from Taft High School in Woodland Hills. "I feel comfortable there and I really like their offense. I think I'd fit in well there because I'm familiar with that style of offense they run."
Weems, a 6-5, 265 pounder who is ranked as the nation's No. 23 offensive tackle by Scout.com, will be visiting the Ducks on January 19. His first official visit, however, will be to Washington on January 5. "I know they didn't have a great year, but they played strong and never gave up. They had a hurt quarterback, but still came close to beating USC and California. They just seem to be a few steps from getting back on top."
On January 12, Weems will be visiting Florida, who by that time may be national champions. "I called that this year," Weems said. "They were my pick to win it all back in August. I think they've got all the right things going for them. They've been recruiting really well too and they've got great coaches, so they'll be hard to beat for a while."
Weems' final visit will be to Arizona on January 26. "During my trips I really want to talk to the players and get their perspective on things," Weems said. "I want to see how they get along with the coaches and stuff."
Jason Peters, ranked as the No. 37 defensive end in the country by Scout.com, took an official visit to Georgia Tech on Dec. 9.
"I really liked the people at Georgia Tech," said the youngster from Catholic Junior High School in Baton Rouge (La.). "They were really nice and I felt like the guys there were a lot like me. The team seems to be on the same page and they have similar goals as I do. They all want to excel in football and in life."
His next official visit is to Nebraska on January 12. "Nebraska is a great place for football and they also have a lot to offer academically," Peters said. "They have a very well-recognized program and the team has really shown a lot of character this year."
On January 20, Peters, who lists at 6-3, 255 pounds, will be heading to Gainesville for his official visit to Florida. "They are playing for the national championship and that's impressive," Peters said. "They play a strong schedule and really took advantage of it. They are just starting, so I think they'll be a top team for a while."
His final official visit will be to LSU on January 27, although he admits he'd like to squeeze in a trip to Notre Dame if he gets the chance. "Notre Dame just seems like a great place and like it would be a great opportunity to play for a team with a lot of tradition and history," Peters said. "If I have time, I'd like to visit them too.
"After my final visit I'll make my decision," Peters said. "Right now I really don't know which school is my favorite because I can't really compare them yet. The only trip I've been on was Georgia Tech and that went really well. I need to take the rest and see.
"I really want to live in a good environment, that has things to do outside of football," Peters said. "The three most important things for me are academics, environment and football."
Around the Southeast and Midwest with Andrew Bone
A pair of Alabama products committed to Conference-USA schools. Cornerback Ricardo Bates, from Prattville, Ala., pledged to Houston, and Corderrius Bimbo from Birmingham-West End pledged to Memphis.
Scout.com three-star defensive end Justin Sanders, from New Market-Buckhorn, Ala., committed to Ole Miss after returning home from an official visit to South Carolina.
Arkansas had a big recruiting weekend prior to the holidays and received two commitments immediately following their visits. Tulsa-Washington, Okla. running back Michael Harris, and cornerback Issac Madison, from Dallas-David Carter, Texas pledged to the Razorbacks.
Scout.com four-star wide receiver Golden Tate, from Hendersonville-John Paul II, Tenn., announced his commitment to Notre Dame.
"Coach Weis believes in playing the best," Tate told Jeff Baumhower of IrishEyes.com. "He puts his freshmen where they can get on the field and get some playing time early. Recruiters say what they think you want to hear, but I feel like I can come in and do some things for my new home Â¿ the Irish. The baseball coach said that I had a chance to come in and compete for the starting spot in centerfield. So, I'll pretty much have my cake and be eating it too."
Offensive lineman Jared McGaha, from Powell, Tenn. committed to Michigan State.
Mississippi State landed several commitments including four junior college prospects. They include: Scout.com four-star quarterback Josh Ridell, from Los Altos Hills-Foothill, Calif., three-star cornerback Chris Nance, from Booneville-Northeast, Miss., four-star defensive tackle Jessie Bowman, from Wesson-Copiah Lincoln, Miss. and three-star cornerback Jasper O'Quinn, from Wesson-Copiah Lincoln, Miss. Quarterback Wesley Carroll, from Fort Lauderdale-St.Thomas Aquinas, Fla. committed to the Bulldogs as well.
Junior College cornerback Sam Pope, from Summit-Southwest, Miss. gave his verbal pledge to South Carolina. The Gamecocks also received a commitment from tight end Mat Williams from Fort Myers-Riverdale, Fla.
Tight end David Duran, from Marietta-Kell, Ga. committed to Michigan State, and offensive lineman Lawrence McCoy, from Valdosta, Ga. gave his pledge to the South Florida Bulls.
Kansas received three commitments from junior college prospects and one prep star from a nationally ranked program. Offensive guard Chet Hartley and cornerback Kendrick Harper, both from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas announced their decision as well as defensive end Aaron Mack from Phoenix, Arizona. Defensive end Jake Laptap, from Jenks, Okla. will join this group as a part of the class of 2007.
Kansas State received two junior college commitments in offensive tackle Alesana Alesana from Community College of San Francisco, Calif. and wide receiver Ernie Pierce of Santa Barbara, Calif.
"I committed to Kansas State because academically it caters towards junior college transfers," Ernie Pierce told Andrew Bone of Scout.com. "The two or three days there was absolutely wonderful. Freshman quarterback Josh Freeman was my player host, and he was real cool."
Christmas came early for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in landing six commitments in three days: Scout.com four-star cornerback David Ross, from Compton-Dominguez, Calif, three-star defensive tackle Terrance Moore, from New Orleans-McDonogh 35, four-star defensive tackle Joseph Townsend, from Los Altos Hills-Foothill, Calif., four-star linebacker Austin Stafford, from Hayward, Calif., three-star wide receiver Wallace Franklin, from El Dorado-Butler, Kansas and three-star defensive end William Yancy, from Glendale-Ironwood, Ariz.
Around the West with Brandon Huffman and Jason Jewell
Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans continue to pile up an embarrassment of talent. Everson Griffen is Scout.com's No. 1 ranked defensive end, and he chose USC on Wednesday. Griffen became USC's seventh five-star commitment, and the third player ranked No. 1 overall at his position joining center Kristopher O'Dowd and linebacker Chris Galippo.
USC was busy the weekend of December 16th as well, welcoming in several of its committed prospects and a handful of uncommitted guests. While no one publicly committed from the Trojans, it's safe to say that the coaching staff made an impact with their targets.
Brandon Carswell, a fast-rising receiver from Milpitas, Calif., had visited Cal the weekend before but the trip to Los Angeles definitely helped the Trojans cause.
"I would say that USC is better than Cal," said Carswell. "Everything at USC was more relaxed. It just went great."
Donovan Warren, a four-star cornerback from Long Beach Poly also was wowed by what he saw at USC.
"I'm going to look at each school open-mindedly," said Warren. "I went to USC open-mindedly and just was checking out the atmosphere with the players and the coaches. I spent a lot of time with Coach Seto, Coach Carroll and I talked a lot and I spent time with Coach Holt, the defensive coordinator. They just told me whenever I'm ready to commit, it's open arms."
Da'John Harris, a five-star defensive tackle from Serra High in Gardena, Calif., was the only other uncommitted prospect from the West Coast visiting USC.
Across town, UCLA hosted its second big recruiting weekend as well, welcoming in Glenn Love, a three-star safety from Hamilton High in Chandler, Mike Harris, a three-star offensive guard from Duarte, Calif., and Chris Conte, a three-star corner from Loyola High in Los Angeles.
Harris had been a soft verbal to UCLA but firmed up his pledge when UCLA told him he wouldn't have to greyshirt.
"Coach (Karl) Dorrell said they're not going to greyshirt me, so I was like, heck yes, I'm committed," said Harris. "We had our meeting and he came up to me and said he was going to give me a scholarship for this fall, so I told him I was committing. If they weren't going to offer me a scholarship (for this fall), I would have thought about it more between greyshirting and going to Arizona. But now I'm 100%. I'm going to be a Bruin."
Love has Arizona and UCLA as his leaders while Cal will have him in for a visit in January. Conte, meanwhile, is a commit to Cal, but his trip to UCLA comes amid speculation that he could be decommitting from the Bears.
Cal, though, has a solid class coming through and the class got even stronger with a commitment from the top player in Northern California, Jahvid Best, a blazing running back from Salesian High in Richmond. One of the most elusive players in this class, both on and off the field, Best verballed to Cal following his official visit.
The Bears also got a commitment from Savai'i Eselu, who had originally committed to Oregon. The Moanalua, Hawaii tight end has pledged to Oregon in November but said he was solid with his commitment to Cal.
Cal also hosted Robert Mullins, a three-star linebacker from Dorsey in Los Angeles, Malachi Lewis, a four-star athlete from Rio Mesa in Oxnard, Calif., and Scott Smith, a three-star prospect from St. Louis High in Honolulu.
Boise State continues to reap the benefits of their Fiesta Bowl season and last week they picked up a pair of commitments from California. The headliner is Titus Young, the most productive receiver in Los Angeles this year. Young, one of the best players to ever play at University High, chose the Broncos over Washington State, Nevada and Washington.
The Broncos also snagged a verbal from Doug Martin, a quick running back from St. Mary's in Stockton. His teammate, John Nisby, a two-star center, will visit Boise State in January and the Broncos have offered him as well.
Fresno State also had a productive weekend, getting commitments from Devan Cunningham, a three-star lineman from powerhouse Grant High in Sacramento. Cunningham is one of the biggest players Fresno State has recruited.
Isaiah Green, from SoCal powerhouse Long Beach Poly, also verballed to the Bulldogs. The cornerback prospect turned down a track scholarship to LSU to play for Fresno State.
Defensive end William Yancy from Ironwood High School in Peoria, Ariz., made his college intentions known today at a press conference. He committed to Nebraska and will join teammate Eric Hagg who committed to the Huskers earlier this month.
Arizona has a very talented junior college system and several players have committed to BCS programs. Linebacker Morris Wooten from Glendale Community College is staying home and will play at Arizona State. Wooten had previously committed to West Virginia but after Dennis Erickson took the job at ASU, Wooten jumped on board.
Offensive tackle Doug Dedrick from Scottsdale Community College pledged to Iowa State and defensive end Aaron Mack from Phoenix College verballed to Kansas. Another Phoenix College grad, cornerback Jarrell Holman committed to Minnesota. The Golden Gophers also had a previous commitment from PC defensive end Eric Tanner.
Wide receiver Drew Davis from Montbello High School in Denver, Colo., made his long awaited decision this week when he chose to play for Oregon.
Colorado State landed three in-state prospects when safety Jarrad McKay, safety Zach Donaldson and running back Matt Yemm all pledged to the Rams.
Linebacker Brian Hendricks' from Burlington High School (Burlington, CO)committment to Wyoming gives the Cowboys their sixth commitment from the state.