June 25, 2008

Landing Nunes cements Clawson's QB rep

Site unseen. Think buying a house having only spoken to a real estate agent and taken a virtual tour on the Internet. From roughly 2,150 miles away.

Josh Nunes called Tennessee first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson Tuesday evening and informed Clawson of his intentions to be a Vol.

A smart kid with a sparkling 29 on the ACT and 1980 on the SAT, the 6-foot-3, 208-pound four-star prospect officially had his pick of more than 30 Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers -- roughly one-fourth of college football. The other 75 percent certainly would have offered the Upland, Calif., native if they felt their chances were better than seeing Kobe and Shaq share a warm embrace.

So what could possibly have prompted Nunes? It's not what, but whom.

Dave Clawson. Two weeks removed from being unfairly excoriated for "losing" Brentwood Academy guard Alex Bullard to Notre Dame, Clawson more than soothed those recruiting trail burns with the Vols' 11th early commitment.

In May, Clawson targeted Nunes and worked feverishly to develop a strong relationship with the polished passer, who most recently generated significant buzz with his performance last weekend at the Elite 11 camp in Las Vegas.

Already tabbed the 10th-best pro style quarterback in his class, Nunes instantly becomes the cornerstone of Tennessee's projected 2009 signing class and potentially the future face of Clawson's hybrid offense -- part West Coast, part spread. The Rocky Top Coast, if you will.

Nunes told VolQuest "there are at least 30 reasons why Tennessee is the right fit." He spoke of his relationship with Clawson, who fostered growth in that by ensuring that Nunes knew he was top priority on the Vols' quarterback board. Clawson, flashing a savvy that seems to be shared by all new members of a Tennessee coaching staff gaining serious recruiting momentum, further bolstered his long-distance relationship by remaining in steady contact and always answering Nunes' calls.

But Nunes, as his classroom credentials and highlight film illustrates, carries plenty of maturity and poise to differentiate between a recruiting pitch and genuine approach, such as what the professorial Clawson delivered. The Vols have had success with West Coast quarterbacks and national recruiting since the end of the Neyland era.

Further, Nunes should arrive on campus at an ideal time for a top-flight quarterback prospect. It's expected that Jonathan Crompton will be entering his final season as the Vols' signal-caller, and though a tough loss for two sports, the Boston Red Sox's selection of Casey Kelly earlier this month in the Major League Baseball Draft had to help with the recruitment of Nunes. Ideally, Nunes could spend a year learning Clawson's system once arriving on campus before competing for the starting job.

When Clawson was hired earlier this year from Richmond, Phillip Fulmer, among others, lauded the former I-AA coach of the year for his ability to handle quarterbacks. Yet it's clear Fulmer didn't simply mean on the field or in the film room, but also on the recruiting trail.

Nunes plans to visit Tennessee, likely next month, and vows to join fellow four-star recruit Je'Ron Stokes as peer recruiters for the Vols. Already having four-star tailback Jarvis Giles on board can't hurt, either.

At the grocery store buying steaks for a cookout with his on-campus quarterbacks when Nunes called, Clawson was reportedly stunned into silence when he received Nunes' commitment.

But if he grills as well as he develops relationships with players and prospects, there seems little doubt that Clawson & Co. dined well Tuesday night.

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