It was a recruiting class that -- on paper -- appeared to help the University of Tennessee football program and coach Derek Dooley get back on track. On National Signing Day 2012, the Vols had the nation's 16th-ranked recruiting class according to 247Sports and the 17th-ranked class on Rivals.com.
Both those "final" rankings would have gotten a boost with the addition of consensus four-star defensive tackle Omari Phillips months after NSD.
But fast-forward a year later, and Dooley's final class is as much flop as feast. Of the 22 signees that inked with UT, at least seven will not suit up for Tennessee and new coach Butch Jones in 2013. Over the course of the next few weeks leading up to National Signing Day and beyond, we'll review all the players in that class and look ahead to this season's. While it may not be a daily feature on Rocky Top Talk, we'll eventually get to all of them. When we're finished looking at last year's class, we'll turn our attention to this season's.
First, though, we'll group together the flops from that class who won't even get to leave their mark. Two of those players -- Cordarrelle Patterson and Darrington Sentimore -- are heading to the NFL a year early. One of those decisions is smart; the other is not. We'll look at those two individually in the coming days. As for the other five guys -- Phillips, Davante Bourque, Trent Taylor, Quenshaun Watson and Deion Bonner -- we'll go ahead and get them out of the way right now. There isn't much to say, after all.
Before anybody convinces himself the loss of these guys doesn't matter, it does. Not only does it lead to team-foundation building struggles by repeatedly replacing role players every year, there is also that pesky APR staring us down in the future. Especially when you consider that there are reports that CP, Sentimore, Taylor, Bonner and Phillips didn't leave the university in good academic standing.
Failures in that regard can be made up by good academic reports in the future, but they're currently an issue that has to concern university administrators and coaches moving forward. A continuation of poor academic performance can result in NCAA penalties such as a bowl ban, and with all the recent attrition, Tennessee has to worry about that going forward. That's why stability -- now more than ever -- is absolutely necessary. As is getting positive work done in the classroom.
As for the five of Dooley's dropouts, let's take a quick look back. We hardly knew ye.
DAVANTE BOURQUE. 6-2, 210 ATH/RB CROWLEY, LA. FOUR STARS ON RIVALS AND 247
Many teams wanted Bourque -- a former Texas A&M and LSU commit -- as a safety, linebacker or wide receiver. Tennessee wanted the athlete as a runner, though many thought he ran too high. Guess we'll never know. Bourque got hit ... HARD ... a couple days into practice. He also was clothes-lined by Daniel McCullers. Not ready for the physical play of college football, the flaky freshman bolted Knoxville just a couple days into practice. There were rumors of him wanting to be with his girlfriend back home. His name hasn't resurfaced, and his future is uncertain. It won't be in Knoxville.
DANTE "OMARI" PHILLIPS. 6-6, 270 DT VENICE, FLA. FOUR STARS ON RIVALS AND 247
When players started enrolling into school in July, Phillips -- a Florida signee -- couldn't get into school in Gainesville. The Gators football program didn't fight to get him in either, especially after they found out how out-of-shape he was. He had ballooned to more than 300 pounds, and when UF administration flagged him and wouldn't allow him into school, he became virtually a free agent. The Vols -- knowing his massive potential -- got in on him and had him visit, and coaches and administrators worked to get him into UT, which eventually happened. However, Phillips arrived lazy and out-of-shape. He also reportedly had attitude problems, and was tweeting throughout the season about how unhappy he was in Knoxville. Phillips' body began to respond to the weight program throughout his redshirt freshman season, but his attitude never was completely rehabilitated. He was suspended indefinitely from the team and reportedly had academic issues. He will no longer be a part of UT moving forward, and his future is uncertain.
TRENT TAYLOR. 6-3, 260 DE LAKELAND, FLA. THREE STARS ON RIVALS AND 247
The former Miami commitment -- and second player UT flipped from the Canes in as many years, joining Marcus Jackson -- certainly looked the part in the spring. He worked his way prominently into the starting rotation, but that didn't translate into the fall. Taylor never cracked the lineup once players reported back for the 2012 season, and he was destined for a redshirt season. He had one tackle. He was another player who got homesick and was disgruntled throughout the season. Also, there were some reported grade concerns with Taylor as well, and he will not be part of the Vols moving forward. Paired with Phillips, this is going to leave a major void in the future of UT's defensive line.
QUENSHAUN WATSON. 5-10, 175 RB ATHENS, GA. THREE STARS ON RIVALS AND 247
Coaches loved Watson's speed, though it was a bit telling that the Georgia Bulldogs never showed interest to the in-town standout from Clarke Central High -- Dooley's alma mater. He was tiny and many questioned whether Que could cut it in the rigors of the SEC. Still, the Vols took a chance on him, and he showed flashes as a freshman, finishing with 23 carries for 73 yards [a 2.9 avg.] and a touchdown. He also had a catch for 17 yards and flashed some quickness. Though it didn't look like he'd ever be an every-down back, it was intriguing to think of his prospects in a Butch Jones offense. We'll never get that opportunity. He did not return for the spring semester at UT, and his Vols career is over. Now, Alden Hill is the only remaining running back from last year's class still on the team.
DEION BONNER 6-0, 170 CB COLUMBUS, GA. THREE STARS ON RIVALS AND 247
A questionable character risk for Dooley and Co. to take, Bonner was one of the most highly recruited cornerbacks in the Southeast until he was involved in a theft situation while on a visit to the University of Georgia. Despite that troubling episode, Bonner paid his debt to society and seemingly rehabilitated himself and received a second chance from the Vols. Toward the end of the season, Bonner's name emerged in connection with another robbery at UT, though he was never charged. He also had some issues in the classroom. Bonner played sparingly as a freshman and did not record a tackle. It doesn't appear he ever will as a Vol.