One question that has to be rolling through the minds of Vols fans right now is: if UT laid such an egg against UCLA this weekend, how did they manage to get commitments from three 4-5 star players in attendance? With recruiting rules as they are, the real answer lies locked-down inside the recruiting machine of Tennessee, but the answer is a little more involved than simply saying that UT can use their help. After all, if UT could use the services of these players so badly, so could Western Kentucky, or any other program that has obvious talent needs. It's one thing to see a need, but it's another thing entirely to see that filling such a need is actually beneficial to your football career.
In the game against the UCLA Bruins, the Tennessee Volunteers did show some things of tremendous importance to the recruits. For one, the defense projects to be elite for as long as Monte Kiffin is around. UCLA may have some new blood on the offensive line, but that alone can't explain how the UT defense just mauled that offense. The Bruins' first drive was their longest, at 51 yards, and included the scripted plays that they had undoubtedly practiced specifically to combat crowd noise and jitters. That was UCLA's best shot. They did manage one more 10-play drive in the third quarter, but were otherwise held to seven 3-and-out drives (including two that ended with field goal attempts on 4th down). It was an active, swarming defense that choked the life out of a team who otherwise should have scored more than 19 points when given 4 turnovers.
Outside of the game itself, though, the official visits include face time with the coaches and the team. The recruits saw a lot more on that weekend than we get to see, and they had time to see if the coaches and the young players on the team were the ones they wished to be around for three to five years. Considering how eager they were to sign, as well as very positive indications from players like Giovanni Bernard, Cody Riggs, and Jawuan James (all three of whom would otherwise never consider UT), the recruiting machine - which includes the nonrecruiting side of the house - is leaving some very large impressions. And we never get to see that side.
The big board is after the jump, along with a few more thoughts.
View Rocky Top Talk Tennessee Volunteers Recruiting Big Board 2010 in a larger map
- Tyler Bray: Committed 9/8/09
- Corey Miller: Committed 9/13/09
- Brandon Willis: Committed 9/13/09
- DeMarco Cobbs: Committed 9/13/09
- Bo Wallace, Munchie Legeaux, Hutson Mason: QB prospects. A couple are still up, but it feels like Bray will be the only one this year.
- Kyle Prater, WR: He probably should have been off sooner, but I left him on until we knew about Cobbs for certain.
There are a lot of defensive line and wide receiver prospects who will probably disappear from the map over the next couple of weeks. Since it's easier to remove than to add, I wanted to wait until I was certain that UT was done shopping for those positions. The remaining positions of need appear to be: running back, where one would be good to have (Giovanni Bernard or Michael Dyer?); offensive line (James Stone, T.J. Leifheit, and Jawuan James are but a few still available); and tight end (Quinton Alton from Memphis may be a possibility here).