A look at what became of some of the Chattanooga area’s most notable signees from four years ago:
RB Levonte Barber, Cleveland, UTC — Barber was supposed to be the local boy who would help turn UTC’s program around. But one of the most highly touted recruits the Mocs had signed in years never made near the impact he was projected to, and he didn’t play last year as a senior after coach Rodney Allison’s attempt to not renew his scholarship. Barber’s weight was a continual issue. He transformed from a 5-foot-11, 200-pound tailback to fullback to heavy fullback, listed at 232 pounds on the roster his junior year. It wasn’t the ending many predicted for Rivals’ No. 6-ranked prospect in Tennessee and No. 38-ranked running back in the nation.
LB Wilford Blowe, Hixson, UTC — Academic and injury issues prevented the former high school quarterback from fully breaking out as an outside linebacker at UTC, which frustrated those who saw him consistently perform solidly and occasionally spectacularly on the practice field. In 26 games from 2004 to ’06, the 6-foot, 195-pound Blowe had 60 tackles, 5.5 for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
DT Demonte Bolden, Tyner, Tennessee — Bolden continues to be every bit as frustrating as he is talented, and the quick 6-foot-6, 290-pounder has NFL-level talent. After one year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy and two seasons of inconsistent performances at UT, Bolden blossomed for the Vols last season before missing the Outback Bowl with academic deficiencies. He is still enrolled at UT and expected to play as a senior, giving him one more chance to prove he can be consistently reliable on and off the field. If he does, he’ll play on Sundays and make good money in the process.
DB Brian Ford, Baylor, Wofford — Ford helped Wofford win a share of the Southern Conference championship last fall, and the Terriers went 9-4 and advanced as far as the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs his final season. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound free safety had nine career interceptions and was selected to the academic all-conference team three times. Although his prep football career took place at Baylor, he transferred during his senior year and technically became the first football signee to graduate from Hamilton Heights, which doesn’t have a football program.
LB Chris Johnson, McCallie, UTC — Johnson wasn’t in the Mocs program long before Coach Allison decided he wanted him on the field. He was a three-year starter who played in all 44 games during his career, including two starts as a freshman. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder twice led the team in tackles and was a second-team All-Southern Conference selection the last two seasons.
DE K.T. Mainord, Grundy County, South Carolina — Mainord’s once-promising college career was altered and ultimately wrecked by off-field incidents, whether disciplinary or academically related. He transferred to UTC before the 2005 season but never played a down for the Mocs, effectively ending a career that once had the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder rated by Rivals as Tennessee’s ninth best high school senior prospect. UTC’s coaches slapped each other’s backs when Mainord fell their way, but they were left shaking their heads.
C Cam Mayo, Dalton, Tennessee — The son of Vols legend Bill Mayo drove himself to tears late in the recruiting process while decommitting from Auburn to follow his childhood of dream of playing for UT. But knee injuries ravaged and reduced the 6-foot-4, 290-pounder’s career before he could work himself into the playing rotation. Rivals’ sixth-rated center in the class of 2004 ultimately accepted a medical scholarship to stay at UT, work on his degree and stay near his friends.
DB Blake Shrader, North Jackson, Auburn — Shrader remains on scholarship for Tommy Tuberville’s Tigers but will enter his senior season having yet to record a tackle or play in an SEC game. The 5-foot-10, 191-pounder played primarily on special teams against Ball State as a redshirt freshman in 2005 and against Washington State, Buffalo, Tulane and Arkansas State in 2006. Shrader played last season only against Tennessee Tech, and most of his contributions for the Tigers the past four years have occurred as a member of the scout-team defense.
DT Greg Smith, Tyner, Auburn — The 6-foot-3, 330-pound Smith was Tennessee’s No. 8-rated prospect by Rivals and originally signed with Auburn. After failing to qualify academically, he spent two years at Northeast Mississippi Community College. He was rated the nation’s No. 1 junior college defensive line prospect his sophomore year and signed with Auburn again, but he did not play a down with the Tigers. He left the team in the spring of 2007, spent last fall out of football and is now enrolled at NAIA member Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., where he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
DE Keith Williams, LaFayette, Air Force Academy — The 6-foot-6, 275-pound junior played in all 13 games for the Falcons this past season and is well on his way to achieving his goal of becoming an Air Force officer. Williams, a member of Squadron 35, played some on the defensive and offensive lines as a sophomore but switched full time to defense in 2007. He was the first Division I signee from LaFayette in a decade.