Tuesday November 4th, 2008

All college coaches still searching for an athletic tight end should watch this video. You may not have missed your chance to land the guy who made the play of the year in high school football.

Lassiter (Marietta, Ga.) tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen committed to Auburn in May. It seemed a logical fit; Auburn had just hired Tony Franklin as its offensive coordinator, and the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Lutzenkirchen had enjoyed plenty of success playing in Franklin's offense -- a spread system Franklin sold to various high schools, including Lassiter.

But since Auburn fired Franklin last month, Lutzenkirchen has re-examined his options. He visited Florida on Oct. 25, and he still wants to check out Miami, Florida State and South Carolina. Of course, he also may still sign with Auburn.

Those options may expand, however, after the play Lutzenkirchen made Friday in a 49-24 win against Centennial. Facing fourth down from the 12-yard line, Lassiter quarterback Hutson Mason followed coach Chip Lindsey's advice. "We tell him," Lindsey said, "to get it up there high and let Phillip make a play."

And that's exactly what Mason did. Except he threw the ball so high that it soared over the back of the end zone. Lutzenkirchen, barely in bounds, leaped over the end line. Much to everyone's surprise, he snagged the ball. That, however, led to another problem.

"I realized when I was going down that I wasn't going to be able to get my foot in," Lutzenkirchen said. "I saw my teammate, and I passed it to him."

It's unclear who was more surprised. Was it the official -- who was in perfect position to make the call? Or was it receiver Reid Handler, who was minding his own business when a touchdown pass fell into his arms. The official did a double-take before he signaled a touchdown. As of Sunday, Lutzenkirchen still wasn't sure if the official made the correct call. "I don't even know if it was legal or not," he said. "I think it was."

Lutzenkirchen is correct. According to the 2008 National Federation of High School Associations rule book, "Any pass in flight may be batted in any direction, by an eligible receiver unless it is a backward pass batted forward by the passing team." Since Lutzenkirchen, an eligible receiver, batted a forward pass backward, the play was legal.

And awesome.

"I've never seen anything like that," said Lindsey, who said he had steeled himself to give Mason a tongue-lashing before Lutzenkirchen and Handler completed football's version of a hockey one-timer. "I'm getting ready to chew the QB's face off," Lindsey said. "I thought when he threw it, it didn't have a chance."

Now that video of the play is making the rounds -- an Atlanta TV station sent the clip to ESPN, which ran the play on SportsCenter on Monday night -- Lutzenkirchen may get even more recruiting attention. He still considers himself an Auburn commit, but he wants to speak to Tigers coaches about their plans for the offense. "I really haven't had a good opportunity to sit down with the coaches at Auburn," Lutzenkirchen said. "Hopefully in the next couple of weeks."

In the meantime, a few more colleges may call the field house at Lassiter. Certainly, those coaches will ask Lindsey for Lutzenkirchen's stats for the season. Lindsey will tell them Lutzenkirchen has 54 catches for 802 yards and five touchdowns. "And one assist, I guess," Lindsey said.

While Monday's news that Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer will step down at the end of the season didn't shock anyone, the way one recruit responded was somewhat surprising. Phoebus (Hampton, Va.) quarterback Tahj Boyd, the former West Virginia commitment who pledged last week to sign with Tennessee, told Rivals.com he still intends to head to Knoxville next year.

"Nothing changes with me," Boyd told the site. "I'm still committed. I'm committed to Tennessee because I like the school and the tradition. ... I hate that Coach Fulmer is gone, but I know they will bring in someone that's good. Coach Fulmer is a good coach. I just hate he won't be there."

Boyd may be on to something here. Tennessee, despite some of the recruiting issues I mentioned in Monday's reaction to the Fulmer news remains a high-profile job, and it will draw a talented pool of applicants. And also in spite of those recruiting issues, Fulmer and his staff have brought in some excellent players. Every team in the country would love to have Eric Berry or Gerald Jones, and it appears Boyd understands he will get a chance to play in a prominent program for a hot coach alongside some talented teammates. Tennessee's annual schedule will make the rebuilding process more difficult, but if athletic director Mike Hamilton makes an excellent hire quickly, the next coach may get a head start if more recruits have the same attitude as Boyd.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach certainly knows how to put on a show for a recruit he really wants. Only one uncommitted recruit attended Saturday's upset of top-ranked Texas as a guest of the Red Raiders. And guess what that recruit did Monday?

That's right, Stephen F. Austin (Austin, Texas) receiver Emory Blake committed to Texas Tech. Blake told RedRaiderSports.com that while the game itself wasn't the deciding factor, he certainly savored the experience.

"Oh man, that game was incredible," Blake told the site. "We were sitting so close to the players that it was pretty much like we were in the game. The atmosphere in and around that stadium was unlike anything I've ever seen before."

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