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 Tuesday, June 13
Georgia, Florida withdrew offers to recruit
 Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Jason Respert, one of the nation's top high school recruits, signed with Tennessee on Tuesday, a week after pleading no contest to trespassing and simple battery charges during a recruiting visit to Florida.

"I believe in Jason Respert and look forward to coaching him," Vols coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I know everyone concerned is glad to have the opportunity to move forward."

Respert, 18, of Warner-Robins, Ga., was accused of sneaking into the bedroom of a Florida student and fondling her while she slept during a recruiting visit he made to Gainesville, Fla., on Jan. 29.

When the charges were filed, both Florida and Georgia withdrew their scholarship offers to the 6-foot-4, 301-pound offensive lineman, a consensus high school All-American. Tennessee, though, reserved its final decision until after the court case.

After pleading no contest, which is not an admission of guilt, Respert was sentenced to two years of supervisory probation and 40 hours of community service.

"I was not there to know exactly what happened and I do not pass judgment nor do I minimize the issue," Fulmer said. "I do know that he is young and has learned a hard lesson and regrets the entire situation."

Respert, thought to be headed to Georgia before he got into trouble, told The Knoxville News-Sentinel: "I think I've found the best place for me as a student-athlete. I wouldn't think about going anywhere else."

Fulmer said Tennessee signed Respert "for the same reasons we recruited him. He is a good person, outstanding student and talented football player."

Respert has been approved for admission and enrollment, Fulmer said. Respert hopes to enroll this summer.

The Volunteers lost three starters in their offensive line last year and Greg Barnum, expected to replace Spencer Riley at center, withdrew from school this spring to return to Texas.


Highly-touted recruit pleads no contest to battery