Tennessee Volunteers Recruiting: National Signing Day on Rocky Top Talk

Hope starts here, on the day the next crop of recruits commits to wearing the orange on fall Saturdays. Learn everything you need to know about the big day as it happens right here, and then stick around to break it down with other Vols fans using the absolute best commenting system on the internet.

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Butch Jones NSD Press Conference

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is scheduled to have an NSD press conference at 4:00. You should be able to view it here.

It will be interesting to see how Jones handles the presser. He has to be at least a little bit disappointed, but he'll have to find a way to balance a positive perspective with acknowledgement of some key misses today. You have to feel bad for him, addressing a bunch of us wearing orange sitting there with our arms folded and scowling at the man trying to clean up somebody else's mess. Make that somebodies elses'.

So what will he say? Stay tuned.


Vols Get A Couple Pickups But Fall Short On NSD

When you're a fan of a proud program that has been losing too long, it's easy to focus on what didn't happen rather than what did.

Welcome to National Signing Day 2013 -- where the Tennessee Volunteers fell just short so often. Never mind that the Vols received a commitment from a four-star quarterback in Joshua Dobbs and a pair of three-star defensive ends in Jaylen Miller and Malik Brown who meet major needs in Knoxville. It wasn't enough to please the masses wanting a centerpiece for the class.

Five-star safety Vonn Bell -- a lifelong Tennessee fan who Butch Jones made up major ground on in the past few weeks -- stunned many [including several reporters who prematurely posted that he was signing with Tennessee] by picking Ohio State. For better or worse, the perception that Bell "makes or breaks" this class was rampant among Tennessee fans who follow recruiting.

The Bell news came on the heels of Carl Lawson deciding to stick with Auburn and E.J. Levenberry sticking with Florida State. Also on Wednesday, Tyler Boyd stuck with Pittsburgh, Davin Bellamy chose Georgia, Johnathan Ford picked Auburn and Trey Johnson stuck with Ohio State. But, of course, the major blow was Bell -- the Chattanooga native who went to school at Ridgeland (Ga.) High School -- and there really isn't much that can ease the sting.

While the Vols addressed needs at cornerback, wide receiver, interior offensive line, tight end and quarterback, there are gaping holes at offensive tackle, linebacker, defensive line and running back that simply weren't met. Quite frankly, there aren't enough elite players in this recruiting class to shock the SEC anytime soon, either. When you throw in WE DIDN'T GET VONN BELL!!!!!! in flashing red lights, it magnifies those failures.

Recruiting is perception. It is what it is.

So, lost in the disappointment of not getting Bell and others is the excellent job the staff did to flip Dobbs, get an elite wide receiver like MarQuez North to sign, flip Ryan Jenkins from Clemson, pluck Malik Foreman from Vanderbilt, keep Jason Carr, Cameron Sutton and Paul Harris in the fold when better teams came calling. All of those are strong, positive things that Jones and this staff accomplished. They won't be remembered as much as WE DIDN'T GET VONN BELL!!!!!!! but that doesn't make them any less important.

The three pickups on National Signing Day were big for UT, and Jones and his staff really did about what you would expect for any staff that had less than two months to establish relationships with many prospects in a region they weren't used to recruiting. They did a pretty darn good job, and I fear that is going to be lost in the fact that the big picture still doesn't look rosy for the Vols compared to other SEC teams. The class was in shambles after Derek Dooley was fired, and Jones did a nice job putting together a piecemeal class that currently sits in the top 25 on both Rivals and 247.

All that said, WE DIDN'T GET VONN BELL!!!!!!!!! And that sucks. We're all frustrated and hurt or ticked off. But to guide that anger toward a player like Bell is a bit ludicrous. Urban Meyer sold Bell on winning. That's something that the Vols simply couldn't do. And it's why that has to change. You can't really fault Bell for going somewhere where they're ready to win. We aren't right now -- or at least the perception is that we aren't. While our ranking is pretty stellar nationally, it is 11th in the SEC according to 247 and 10th according to Rivals. Hard to catch up that way...

Where this recruiting class initially fell apart starts with Dooley and his recruiting failures in establishing, building and developing relationships with the prospects. It began with the former coaching staff being unable to win football games. Though Jones and his staff worked their tails off to try and salvage this year's class, they were backed against a wall more than we ever wanted to admit. When you are trying to build relationships in two months that other staffs have had two years to cultivate, these are the results you have to expect.

If this sounds like I'm giving Jones a pass for not getting more "elite" players in this class, that's accurate. But the bottom line is we are paying him a lot of money for results, and he'll need to start getting them soon. He's just facing a frustrating situation. How do you win football games without getting elite football players? How do you convince elite football players to come to UT when you're not winning? That, in a nutshell, is what is facing the current staff.

The SEC is a different animal than it has ever been. Alabama is on top of the world -- in recruiting and in actual football. Florida, Georgia and LSU aren't going anywhere, and they're pulling recruits like crazy. South Carolina has continued its recent string of strong play. Then, you've got new kids on the block like Texas A&M flexing some recruiting muscle on the heels of upsetting national champion Alabama. Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze are about to pull in a top 10 recruiting class, and James Franklin at Vanderbilt is getting better and winning some recruiting battles. Heck, Kentucky had a much better recruiting finish than the Vols.

It's a tough, tough spot for Jones.

But it isn't an impossible spot. Now, we turn our attention on a 2014 recruiting class full of Tennessee legacies and perhaps the best crop of instate talent in years. We've got the spots to sign 27-30 after signing this class of just 21 this year. And the Vols not only have to sign a big class in '14 but an excellent class -- deep and full of difference-makers who can step in and play [well] immediately. They have to sell kids again on coming to the University of Tennessee. They have to make a big splash in recruiting, and there is truthfully only one place where that can start:

On the football field later this year.

Jones has got to find a way to win -- with less talent than pretty much everybody on the schedule. If he can do that, the talent will come. If he can't, we'll keep having disappointing National Signing Days. We have officially fallen behind. Now, it's up to the new staff to catch us up ... on Saturdays, and in prospects' living rooms across the country.

It will have to wait another year, at least.


The Official RTT NSD Discussion Thread

Because the official announcements are coming so quickly, we thought we'd designate a single spot as the official post for discussion today. This is that spot. It's also a great place to ask Brad questions because he's the man with the answers.


Vonn Bell Chooses Ohio State

In a very disappointing development, 5-star safety Vonn Bell has committed to Ohio State. Just a few minutes ago, reports had indicated that Bell was going to announce for Tennessee, which would have been great news. But alas, something has happened, and Bell is going to the Buckeyes.


Joshua Dobbs Flips From Arizona State To Tennessee

When Butch Jones took over at the University of Tennessee and was met with the news that Tyler Bray was leaving early for the NFL, the new head coach zeroed in on a couple of committed quarterbacks to bring to Knoxville.

The Vols got excellent news from one of those players Wednesday when Alpharetta (Ga.) High School quarterback Joshua Dobbs departed from his long-standing commitment from Arizona State and flipped to UT to play for coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. The other player Jones targeted was Florida State commit John Franklin III, but Dobbs' pledge makes the late pursuit of those two worth the hours.

Though the Dobbs news will likely be overshadowed by the message board frenzy over five-star safety Vonn Bell and the fact that the Vols already have one quarterback commitment in Riley Ferguson, it doesn't dissipate the magnitude of this news. The nation's No. 8-rated pro-style quarterback and the 107th-ranked overall player in the 247 rankings is blessed with great footwork, arm strength and intelligence.

Several SEC programs tried to flip Dobbs -- who also had offers from many Ivy League schools -- late, but Tennessee is the only one he ultimately listened to. Even when Dobbs received offers from Clemson and Stanford late in the cycle, he kept quiet, only considering the Vols along with Arizona State. Ultimately, the potential to play in the SEC coupled with the opportunity to stay much closer to home and having his specific engineering major made the lure to Knoxville too much for the Sun Devils to overcome.

Dobbs is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound dropback signal-caller who is rated as a pro-style passer, but that doesn't mean he can't run, too. He also possesses 4.7 speed, and therefore he has the ability to break upfield and get yards when the pocket collapses. Dobbs was named offensive player of the year in his region, and as a junior was 294-of-392 for 3,113 yards and 31 combined touchdowns. Dobbs also excels on the diamond and is a draftable prospect in baseball as well. He's known for his leadership ability, pocket awareness, quick release, accuracy and footwork.

Though he's incredibly thin, Dobbs likely won't be needed in Knoxville right away, so he'll have time to get in the weight room. With Bray's departure, quarterback was expected to be a concern heading into next season, but Jones has rectified that with this signee. The infusion of Dobbs and Riley Ferguson into a depth chart that already includes junior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman gives UT a healthy number of options to see who is Bray's heir apparent. Also, don't sleep on invited walk-on Charlie High, who will be given the opportunity to compete as well.

Welcome to Big Orange Country, Mr. Dobbs!


Defensive End Jaylen Miller Signs With Vols

Tennessee gets a pledge from Gaffney (S.C.) defensive end Jaylen Miller, filling a massive need along the defensive front.


Marquez North Officially A Vol

Marquez North's fax is in. As Brad said earlier, the 6'4" 212-pound wide receiver from Charlotte, NC is "the current centerpiece of this class" and will be unless and until Vonn Bell signs. Still, North is Rivals' second-ranked WR in the entire class.

As expected, tight end A.J. Branisel has also signed.

Welcome to Rocky Top, guys!


Announcement Times for Key Recruits

UT's live shot of the fax cam includes name plates of the new signees, which presumably will be updated as they come in. Right now, it's showing the five early enrollees: Paul Harris, Lemond Johnson, Riyand Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Corey Vereen. While we're waiting for others, check out Brad's capsules of these guys.

Brad's also uncovered expected announcement times for some of the other key guys:

  • 9:10 a.m. -- 4-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs
  • 10:00 a.m. -- 4-star receiver Tyler Boyd
  • 10:05 a.m. -- 5-star defensive back Vonn Bell
  • 11:00 a.m. -- 4-star defensive end/outside linebacker Davin Bellamy
  • 1:00 p.m. -- 4-star running back Johnathan Ford and 3-star defensive end Malik Brown
  • 2:45 p.m. -- 3-star defensive end Jaylen Miller [Note by Joel Hollingsworth, 02/06/13 8:41 AM EST ] False Start. #Whatever, Jaylen Miller. Five yard penalty. Declined. He's a Vol. Woo.
  • 4:00 p.m. -- Butch Jones NSD Press Conference

NSD Kick Off

Well, National Signing Day is here. It's the annual event during which hope is rekindled anew. We'll be here all day responding to announcements and passing along all of the excellent information that Brad has compiled over the past several months of excellent work and marrying it to the things that actually happen. Because you never really know what's going to happen.

UTSports.com does have a video show that just went live. We suggest opening that up and letting it run in another window or tab and keeping an eye on the National Signing Day story stream here at RTT so you can break things down with us as they happen.

In any post in the story stream, there will be a list of the updates to the stream on the right sidebar.

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