November 4, 2008

Mississippi duo looking after UT decision

Tennessee's decision to force out head coach Phillip Fulmer after this season sent ripple affects that could be felt all the way down to Olive Branch, Miss. where two prospects that would like to play for the Volunteers are now looking at other programs.

The Volunteers got a commitment from Olive Branch offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips last summer, but on Monday, Phillips said the change definitely has him looking at other programs.

"I'm still committed to Tennessee, but I'm definitely looking," Phillips said on Monday evening. "I'm not sure what's going on at Tennessee. Their decision (to force Fulmer out) helps everybody (all other schools recruiting him)."

Before the decision about Fulmer was made public on Monday, Phillips was already looking at Ole Miss, having made an unofficial visit to Oxford last Saturday to see the Auburn game.

"Now, I'm looking at everybody in the SEC, not just Ole Miss and Tennessee," he said.

Phillips, a 6-foot-6, 310 pound offensive tackle prospect, said that he has offers from Auburn, Alabama, LSU in addition to Ole Miss and Tennessee in the SEC and that two other SEC programs - South Carolina and Florida - are recruiting him, but have yet to offer. He said that Penn State and Florida State also have offered.

Meanwhile, Phillips' teammate, Courtney Easterwood, a 6-foot-3, 310 pound offensive lineman, also was in shock over Tennessee's decision.

"I have been hearing from (Tennessee assistant) coach (Steve) Caldwell every Monday," Easterwood said on Monday. "When he didn't call on Monday, I knew something was up."

While it was previously reported that Easterwood had an offer from Tennessee, he said on Monday that the Vols had never extended an official offer, although they were recruiting him hard. He said Louisiana Tech is currently is only offer.

"We (Phillips and Easterwood) are good friends and we would have loved to play together," Easterwood said. "I think we would have ended up at Tennessee, but for now, I'm not sure. I'm wide open now."

Easterwood also tripped to Ole Miss last weekend to catch the Rebels play Auburn.

"It (the trip) went pretty well," Easterwood said. "I really like Ole Miss. They are close to home and the team is really getting better. I've caught some on their games on TV - they almost beat Alabama - they have come a long way."

Ole Miss is apparently still in the evaluation phase on Easterwood and have not offered and coaches aren't calling regularly, although he is receiving mail.

With Ole Miss already posting a five-win season - with three games remaining - and likely being bowl bound, the Rebels' class is already half full (13 verbal commitments) and the momentum in recruiting for the Rebels has shifted from a program with four straight losing seasons that wasn't' so appealing to recruits to one that is becoming more popular among prospects.

"I haven't really talked to any coaches since I talked to the defensive line coach (Tracy Rocker) when I was at camp," Easterwood said. "He said they'd be in touch."

Neither Phillips or Easterwood have official visits set up, but both say they would like to take an official visit after their season is over - likely in December.

Easterwood is yet to take the ACT and says his GPA is in the 2.8 range.

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