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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Could Vols add No. 2 prospect Lawson?

By Kipp Adams

The battle for No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) has been well documented, but less than 50 miles away, programs have also been fighting it out for the No. 2 prospect in the country, defensive end Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton).

Lawson has been committed to Auburn since last March, but the Tigers are going to have to fend off several programs if they want to hold onto their five-star pass rusher. Carl Lawson Sr., Carl’s father, did not accompany Lawson on his first official visit to Clemson, but he says his son was very fond of Brian Dawkins' speech during an award ceremony on campus that weekend.

He was able to join Carl on his second official visit to Tennessee this past weekend.

“The Tennessee visit was great and the entire family enjoyed it,” Lawson Sr. said. “Tennessee has a lot of history. A lot of people do not know that Peyton Manning is Carl’s all-time favorite player. He prides himself on being Peyton Manning’s biggest fan, so being at Tennessee was a big thrill for him.”

The Volunteers are hoping to add Lawson on signing day, where he could join several prominent Vols defensive ends including legendary players such as Reggie White, Leonard Little and Chuck Smith, and more recent standouts such as Robert Ayers and Turk McBride. But Lawson Sr. feels that that pitch was unnecessary with his talented son.

“The new coaching staff is trying to build a relationship with Carl, not emphasize the greats of the past,” Lawson Sr. said. “Carl probably knows the history of the program well enough to where they did not have to point them out.”

The newly hired Volunteers’ coaching staff was able to make a solid impression on Lawson and his father.

“Steve Stripling is like a defensive line guru, so Carl had fun picking his brain and watching film,” Lawson said. “Coach (Butch) Jones seems like he is going to be energetic, is well-mannered, and is a focused individual. Tennessee hired the right man.”

Trying to bond with potential new teammates with only two weeks to go until he signs his letter of intent is possibly a difficult endeavor, but Lawson Sr. feels his son was impressed with at least one Volunteer already on campus.

“It did seem like he liked the players he met and I know he was really impressed with Antonio Richardson, his host,” Lawson Sr. said. “He is really dedicated to his craft and one of the impressive things is that he was working out on his own. They had a lot to talk about with talking shop and comparing notes.”

Tennessee could also benefit from Lawson knowing he has a familiar face planning to play in Knoxville, Tenn., already.

Ryan Jenkins is making a strong push for him,” Lawson Sr. said. “Carl, Ryan and Peyton Barber have been friends for a long time, as have our families. That would be good if it works out, but each group has to do what is best so it might work out or it might not.”

Lawson has said repeatedly since head coach Gene Chizik was let go in November that he remains committed to Auburn, only adding that his visits are a chance for him to re-evaluate his options. His father expounded on the possibility that Lawson ends up somewhere other than Auburn.

“Tennessee has a pretty good chance with Carl,” Lawson Sr. said. “He has always been committed to Auburn though, so someone has to win him over and it is a process that is still ongoing. They got a visit and anyone that gets a visit has a chance.”

Other programs hoping to have a chance with Lawson might be running out of time. Lawson’s father said he is unsure if a scheduled North Carolina official this weekend will still take place, and said a UCLA official visit is possible, but he was unsure just when they would be able to fit the trip in. An official to Auburn is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 2. Lawson said no other programs are being considered for visits at this time, which means a trip to Ole Miss is out.

“He really likes the staff at Ole Miss and they are on another level as far as how relentless they are in recruiting, but because of distance they just do not seem to be the right fit for him and he does not have a visit scheduled for them,” Lawson Sr. said.

The recruiting process has been drawn out a little longer than the Lawson family had expected, but the home stretch is upon them.

“It has been difficult trying to make a final decision, but recently it has gotten a lot easier,” Lawson Sr. said. “Tennessee was a good visit, but Auburn is not chopped liver either and we have not visited there yet. Within 24 hours of that visit, he will be ready to make his decision.”