Kids say the darndest things.
There is no clearer example of that than recruiting, and the Summit of those Shenanigans is upon us Wednesday as this season's courtship of top prospects culminates in National Signing Day.
It's the day where we realize that -- quite frankly -- people lie. Kids lie. Their parents lie. Coaches lie. They will all purposefully mislead you, trick you, throw you for a loop ... all for their moment in the spotlight. Oh, not all of them lie, of course. Many players handle the recruiting process like adults, either quietly picking their school of choice long before this week or just going about their visits, weighing the pros and cons and then making a firm business decision based on the factors that are most important to them.
Those guys give us the least heartburn -- and heartache -- but we watch the recruiting carnival for the carnage, right? We love seeing fanbases' hopes ripped to shreds [as long as it's not us]. We love the drama. We love the hilarity and the hysterics. It's theater, entertainment at its best. And ... for one day at least ... the sports world caters to the crazy.
Kids will perform hat stunts, pull out animals, break into fight songs, sign pieces of paper that are not real national Letters of Intent and switch later in the day ... all while choosing the school they'll attend the next four or five years of their lives. They'll pledge fealty to one school one moment, then commit to their former loyal love's fiercest rival the next. It's ridiculousness at its finest.
And not all of it is their fault. After all, they're 17-year-old kids. Sometimes, even they don't know what they're going to do before they do it. In some cases, too [as my Mamaw used to say] some of these cats act like "they've got no raisin'." In many cases, they act that way because they don't.
It can be the most frustrating day of the year for football fans, or it can be the most euphoric. Many times, it is one in the same.
Grown men huddle around grainy Internet videos to see where a player who has never stepped foot onto a college football field will commit. We'll call kids names, make excuses, jump around our cubicles and scramble for 40 times and senior statistics. It is why recruitniks like myself love the aspect of the game, and it is the epitome of why so many other die-hards simply refuse to follow the circus act that recruiting has become. Even if you don't care for recruiting, though, Wednesday is the one day where everybody who loves football pays attention, if only for a bit. Tennessee fans are no different.
So here, in a nutshell, is everything you need to look for from a Vols perspective come NSD (No Sense Day).
- First and foremost, you need to know that Rocky Top Talk is going to have a blow-by-blow account of the day's proceedings. We'll do the best we can to have wall-to-wall coverage, you know, amid our real jobs and daily obligations in the real world. There will be a column heading into the day, an open thread, breaking news reports, commitment capsules and a recap. And that's probably just the beginning of what we'll have for you on RTT.
- Next -- and most importantly -- here is a rundown of the players we'll be watching with fingers crossed and bated breath on Wednesday. [Times are subject to change...] Remember, my predictions mean nothing. I'm notoriously bad at predicting how these things will go ... which is why I love Signing Day so much.
- Brookville (Va.) DT Korren Kirven gets the day started early with his announcement at 8 a.m. EST. Kirven is one of the Vols' most important targets, and it is thought to be a Virginia Tech/Tennessee battle with Alabama on the outside looking in. This one is very, very close, but if I had to pick, I'd choose ... PREDICTION: Virginia Tech. Close family members are Hokies fans, and there's some pressure to stay home. Still would not be surprised -- and would be VERY elated -- if he decided Knoxville wasn't that far away.
- South Miami (Fla.) CB Amos "AJ" Leggitt gives his verbal pledge next at 9 a.m. EST. The big question here is A) Can the Vols get him into school? And B) Can they convince him that they can? If not, he'll go to Marshall where he's currently committed. But the lure to play Southeastern Conference football is big. PREDICTION: Tennessee. If the Vols want him and believe they can get him in, there's no doubt he'll choose the Vols over the Herd. If he doesn't commit, then -- no sour grapes intended -- you'll know the risk was too great.
- Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College WR Cordarrelle Patterson commits at 10:30 a.m. This is one of the biggest toss-ups of the recruiting season. Literally five SEC teams think they have a shot. Tennessee and Georgia have been the favorites for a while. He loved his visits to Ole Miss and LSU late. Auburn has the Trooper Taylor factor on its side. There is literally no telling where he goes. PREDICTION: Tennessee. I think he pulls a shocker and goes with the Vols over the Dawgs and Rebels. This is with my heart, and since I have no idea, I'm saying Vols.
- Gaffney (S.C.) wide receiver Quinshad Davis will choose between the Vols, Wake Forest and North Carolina at his high school at noon EST. Of all the players UT is watching on National Signing Day, Davis is probably the best bet to come to Knoxville -- which means absolutely nothing in recruiting. The Vols appear to be the odds-on favorite to land the superb wide out, but it's not a guarantee. He has a long-standing relationship with Wake Forest, and Davis was the valedictorian of his high school, so it may be tough to turn down the education he can get at Wake. Also, there have been rumors that North Carolina has turned up the heat late. UT did get the last visit, so the Vols will be fresh on his mind. PREDICTION: Tennessee. SEC football wins the day.
- Timber Creek (N.J.) linebacker Quanzell Lambert is the big question mark of the day. Will he sign with Rutgers, the school to whom he has been committed for a long time? After Greg Schiano left to go coach for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Vols are trying to get in on Lambert. He has already taken all five official visits [none to UT] but Vols new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri has a relationship with Lambert and recruited him to Alabama. If Lambert doesn't sign, takes his recruitment past NSD and visits the Vols unofficially, things may get interesting. He won't pick UT tomorrow, but we will be watching to see if he signs with Rutgers. If not, the Vols may have a spot open for him after NSD with the loss of Santos. PREDICTION: Whether tomorrow or down the road, I think he sticks with Rutgers in the end.
- Say a little prayer for little drama from our commitments. Right now, it looks like Dalton Santos' defection from the real UT to Texas **may be** the last of our backpedaling from a current commitment standpoint, but there is the potential for a little hang-wringing. Two of UT's top commitments are at least flirting with other schools. Louisiana linebacker Otha Peters took a visit to Arkansas last weekend and had a great time. Though he told Volquest.com there is "no way" he will sign with anybody else Wednesday, he's playing the game with some of the other sites, including all Arkansas's sites and a couple of UT's. Also, top commitment LaDarrell McNeil remains committed to UT, but it wouldn't be terribly surprising for him to pull a last-minute switch to Oklahoma State. Still, the Vols seem to have momentum there. The other potential defection is running back Davante Bourque, but it looks like he will assuredly sign with the Vols now after a brief Miami courtship.
- Major recruiting spin -- from coaches and fans. Don't expect for Derek Dooley to stand up there at the podium tomorrow afternoon and talk about the big fish who signed with somebody else. No matter where they're ranked, coaches will act like they've signed the best class ever. Also, fans like myself will be painfully optimistic and make myriad excuses when Player X signs with School Y over UT. Just get ready. It's gonna happen. You need to educate yourself to weigh through the bull dung. I'll try to toss my fandom aside and shoot you as straight as possible throughout the day.
- Unusually large disparities in the Vols' final recruiting rankings. It's going to happen, folks, and it's not every year that you see it. Many years, the four major services [Rivals, Scout, ESPN and new giant 247 Sports] will all have a school's final rankings pretty close. That's not the case with UT this year. The Vols are much higher in Rivals rankings entering National Signing Day than the other three. It will not be surprising to get major lip service from analysts on a couple sites while hearing about how disappointing our class is on the others.
Buckle up, Vols fans. Tomorrow is going to be a wild ride. And if JUCO signing day back in December was any indication, there will be a few ups and a few downs. So get ready. Try to enjoy it, but remember that recruiting national championships get you nowhere.