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Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Tennessee looking for D.C. package deal

By Dave Hooker


Tennessee continues to heavily recruit Washington (D.C.) Friendship.

Running back Jonathan Haden is the latest prospect from the talent-rich school to receive a scholarship offer from Tennessee. He confirmed the offer to ESPN on Monday after receiving it on Sunday. Haden spent much of the weekend complimenting Tennessee on Twitter.

"It's a great offer," Haden said Monday. "I'm real excited right now."

Tennessee already has one commitment from Friendship in 5-foot-9, 169-pound cornerback D'Andre Payne. They have long been recruiting 6-1, 188-pound cornerback Jalen Tabor. Tabor recently said Tennessee would be one of his finalists.

Tennessee is also recruiting safety Da'Juan Funderburk from Friendship. Funderburk has 13 scholarship offers, including one from the Volunteers, Florida State, Maryland and Wisconsin. Funderburk has recently visited Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Pittsburgh as well as some smaller schools. Funderburk said he would like to announce his college decision in August.

With connections in the South and Midwest, Haden will be tough to land. His brother, Joe Haden, was a standout defensive back for the Florida Gators. He now plays for the Cleveland Browns.

Haden has expressed interest in Ohio State to be close to his brother. He plans to visit Columbus this summer. The Buckeyes have Joe Haden's college coach -- Urban Meyer -- and long ago offered the younger Haden a scholarship. Florida is recruiting Haden but has yet to offer him a scholarship.

When asked about a possible package deal to Tennessee, Haden said, "We've talked a lot about it. The odds are pretty good."

Funderburk seemed open to the idea of the four teammates attending college together. Tennessee seems at least a possibility.

"I think we could make big things happen with my teammates [at Tennessee]," Funderburk said. "I think they take care of their players. I think that could be a possibility."

Of course, the four prospects have ties to other schools. Recent Friendship prospects have signed with Maryland and Florida State. For now, however, the relationship between current teammates seems to be a real factor.

"We're close," Funderburk said. "We have a strong friendship. We love playing with each other. We go after each other in practice. We'd like to continue that bond.

There would be competition at Tennessee for Haden, who is 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. The Vols already have two running backs committed to the class: Treyvon Paulk from Alpharetta (Tenn.) MIlton and Jalen Hurd from Hendersonville (Tenn.) Beech. Paulk, Hurd and Haden are all rated as four-star prospects.

"I feel like I can play anywhere I go," Haden said when asked if joining two other tailbacks in a class would be a problem. "I feel like I can do anything if they give me the ball."

Haden, who plans to visit Arizona this summer, said he and his Friendship teammates would visit Tennessee soon. Funderburk said he and Tabor are leaning toward a June visit.

The Vols have 11 commitments, including six four-star prospects and two from the ESPN 150. The Friendship foursome is being recruited to Tennessee by receivers coach Tommy Thigpen. He has quickly become one of Tennessee's top recruiters.

"He's very down to earth," Haden said. "We can talk for a whole hour and tell him anything."

Including a possible future at Tennessee.