December 9, 2008

Fencepost No. 1: Eric Gordon commits

Consider this fencepost No. 1 in new Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin's border patrol.

Hillsboro High School standout Eric Gordon, a four-star prospect and Class 4A Tennessee Mr. Football finalist, verbally committed to Tennessee on Tuesday.

The offensive MVP in Hillsboro's 10-7 state title win, Gordon, who will visit UT in early January, becomes Kiffin's first commitment.

"It's big," Gordon said of being Kiffin's first recruit and of the coach's commitment to bring the state's top talent to Knoxville. "It was a big surprise. I was very shocked (to see Kiffin, Greg Adkins and other UT coaches at the title game). I think I knew he was coming but it definitely surprised me that he was that interested.

"I hope those other guys (top in-state talent) will follow me and get up there and make it a dynasty up there. If I need to speak to a couple guys, hey, it won't be a problem."

Though Alabama led for Gordon's services until last week, it was the in-home visit of Kiffin and offensive line coach Greg Adkins, a key figure in Gordon's recruitment, on the heels of their appearances at the state championship game that made lasting impressions.

Gordon's high school coach, Scott Blade, said Tennessee's coaches left their mark with their visit last Saturday.

"Huge impression; it let Eric know he was a high priority for them," said Blade, who has led Hillsboro to a pair of state title-game appearances in three years as head coach. "They made him feel special and feel like coach Kiffin really … left an incredible impression. Coach Kiffin left an impression that boy, really stuck with Eric. And here we are today."

Added Gordon, the state's No. 3 prospect, "It was just going through my head, kept going through my head," said the versatile Gordon, who played at least four positions in leading Hillsboro to the 4A title last Saturday. "Of course I had the visit the other day, and I just kept thinking about it. A lot of people kept asking me, and it really just made me think about it for a while. I kept going through it and came up with Tennessee.

"Every time I thought about, I just kept thinking about Tennessee."

A former collegiate teammate of Marshall Faulk, Blade said Gordon is unlike any other player he's coached.

"He's hands-down the best pure athlete I've ever coached," he said. "As far as pure athleticism, and he's so multi-dimensional. It will be interesting to see how UT uses him. I say you try him out all over because he can do so many different things.

"Our first day of throwing the ball (in 2006), you kind of notice who's got an ability to catch the ball and see kids track down a deep ball. That's a talent. Then you see him run in open field, that's a whole other set of talents. You kind of notice those things right off the bat. Things you can't coach. Literally, you can't coach a kid to go to right when the whole rest of his body is going left or make the moves he makes or the ability to accelerate on a dime. To be able to start and stop.

"I had the fortune to play with Marshall Faulk at San Diego State for a year. He had this ability to start and stop like no one I've ever seen. Eric's got that type of ability. To be able to run full sped, stop and start while the other person is still trying to slow down. It's kind of hard to explain and put into words and conceptualize it. The kid's just got some remarkable football skills."

And while Kiffin told Gordon's he definitely a cornerback, he also indicated to the 5-foot-9, 187-pound dynamo that Tennessee could use his skill set on both sides of the ball.

"He told me I was definitely a cornerback but that I need ball in my hands," said Gordon, "and that they may play me in the slot receiver and that I can also play punt and kick return."

A four-star prospect and younger brother of former All-SEC standout Jamont Gordon, Eric Gordon is the No. 14 cornerback in the country according to Rivals.com.

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