January 6, 2011

Dawson starring in Texas, sets final 3 visits

SAN ANTONIO --- Arguably the top linebacker in the country, Lamar Dawson has done little this week in U.S. Army All-American Bowl preparations to dissuade that notion. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound tackling machine is the state of Kentucky's top prospects, and he's one of the top uncommitted players at the 11th-annual game.

But Dawson won't join a handful of players in announcing during Saturday's contest at the AlamoDome. Instead, he's got visits lined up to Southern Cal, Central Florida and Tennessee, respectively, before signing day on Feb. 2. He won't reveal his decision until that day.

"I'm going to USC, Central Florida and Tennessee and then I'll make my decision," Dawson said. "They're all great schools. I just have to find the place that's right for me."

While Dawson evaluates schools down the stretch, he acknowledges that early playing time is a key factor. Yes, he's aware that Tennessee graduates three senior linebackers --- Nick Reveiz, Savion Frazier and LaMarcus Thompson --- and that early playing time is attainable for a Vols team that played 16 true freshmen during the 2010 season.

"I want to play when I can play as a freshman so that's a big factor," said Dawson, who previously visited Oregon and Kentucky.

In an attempt to ready himself for playing as a freshman, Dawson has tried to maximize his work this week against top prospects from around the country. Rivals.com national analysts have raved about Dawson's work on the practice field, and it's conceivable Dawson could be a five-star prospect --- he's currently listed as the No. 54 player nationally, a four-star prospect at inside linebacker --- in the final rankings.

"I think I've played all right. It's a great competition and I think I've been able to play with them," he said. "It's a whole lot better competition. Everybody is a whole lot faster."

Working mostly at outside linebacker this week, Dawson has adjusted well to the position.

"I like it," he said of his work on the edge. "I can get to the ball and run. I just need to work on playing fast and learning the plays and stuff."

Dawson, however, already has learned to tune out recruiting chatter. He admits there's a certain pressure to stay home and play for a Bluegrass State school, but he doesn't let it affect him.

"Just a little bit" of pressure, he said. "I just nod my head."

Dawson's done more than nod his head in response to his recruitment by Tennessee coaches, including Justin Wilcox, Lance Thompson and Harry Hiestand.

"They're just great guys, down to earth. Very cool guys," he said.

Dawson, who had 176 tackles as a junior, was named Kentucky's Mr. Football this year after he amassed 158 tackles and four interceptions as Boyle County won a second consecutive Class 4A state title. He has made it clear he doesn't intend to make a college choice until signing day on Feb. 2.

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