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Monday, March 18, 2013
OT Bars talks Vols, other recent offers

By Dave Hooker

Based off his previous impressions of Tennessee, Alex Bars wasn't expecting a lot from his visit to Knoxville last weekend. The ESPN Watch List prospect left town pleasantly surprised -- if not shocked.

The ESPN Watch List offensive tackle was all smiles as he left Tennessee's athletic complex on Saturday. Bars said Tennessee's new coaching staff under first-year Volunteer head coach Butch Jones was completely different than the staff under former coach Derek Dooley, who was fired last year following three losing seasons.

Bars said he noticed more camaraderie among the players and better intensity with the new coaching staff. That intensity was on display during a scrimmage that prospects were invited to watch. Bars paid close attention to offensive line coach Jon Mahoney. Details were what stood out to Bars.

"It was awesome," the 6-foot-6, 280-pound prospect said with a wide grin. "I got to watch them and they work with a lot of hand placement and footwork. They're doing a lot of the little things."

Bars said he took note of Tennessee's soon-to-be-vacant offensive line depth chart. Tennessee's coaches made sure he was aware Tennessee could lose five of its six top offensive linemen after the 2013 season. Four are seniors. Junior Antonio Richardson could forgo his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.

Bars also met with former Tennessee offensive lineman Antone Davis. A first-round pick in the 1991 NFL draft, Davis now heads up Tennessee's Vol For Life program, which is designed to help players with off-field life skills issue.

"He's a solid guy," Bars said. "He's really cool and he knows how to recruit. He knows what to say."

Bars most recent scholarship offers have come from California, Arkansas, LSU and Notre Dame. Bars didn't seem bothered about playing on the West Coast. When asked if he could go that far for college, he said. "I think so. Yeah definitely."

"I know it's top academics," Bars said of Cal. "Great program, too. I don't know much about the new staff there."

Arkansas has a previous connection with Bars. Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman recruited Bars while he was an assistant at Tennessee last year.

"I know they have a great O-line coach with Coach Pittman … I know he's a great coach and I know he could teach me a lot of things," Bars said.

As for LSU, Bars said, "Great program. No doubt. They've done a lot of great things there, a top program in the nation. It's a great offer."

Notre Dame might end up being tough to beat. Bars' father played football for the Fighting Irish.

"He likes it over there," Bars deadpanned as he looked to his father standing nearby. "Great academics. Great program. They made it to the national championship game."

With his father's tie to Notre Dame and having brothers that play at Penn State and Michigan, most think Bars will head north to play college football. However, he said that's not necessarily the case.

"It doesn't matter to me," Bars said. "I'm wide open. I could play at any conference. My brothers don't have any effect on me at all. They want me to come to their schools, but they're not going to put that much pressure on me.

"They're going to realize it's my own deal."

There's one reason to think Bars could break family form and stay in the South. He has tremendous respect for the SEC.

"For sure, it's the best league," he said. "It's the best competition you can find."