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Recruiting Update: Black is the Color of My True Love's Jersey

It's pretty amazing that, for all of the events surrounding Tennessee football since Lane Kiffin's hiring, few topics have achieved as much steady discussion and debate as the color black.  It was a significant enough topic that we not only held a create-your-own-uniform contest, we added some swag as prizes for the winner and runner-up.  Our busiest day at Rocky Top Talk for the entire month of October?  In a month where Crompton turned the corner, Tennessee drilled Georgia, and Alabama very nearly fell to the Vols in Tuscaloosa, it was the day we talked about uniforms.

But if uniform color is a big deal to us, it shouldn't be surprising that color is a big deal to other people as well.  It was important enough for Eric Berry and Montario Hardesty to talk to Mike Hamilton and request black for Halloween.  It was important enough for Mike Hamilton to make the about-face on earlier statements and rush-order black uniforms with screen-printed numbers.  It was important enough that Tennessee's recruiting may very well have turned a surprising and very exciting corner.

Commits Since the Black Jerseys

Shortly after the black jersey game, Tennessee earned the pledge of Ken AdamsKenbrell Thompkins, and even 5-star basketball commit - point guard Kevin Ware.

  • Ken Adams could play either defensive end or tight end, but the roster numbers appear to suggest tight end at the moment.  He's a Junior College player who was first an Auburn commit out of high school, but the changes in Auburn (which were more significant, offense-wise, than Tennessee) don't particularly suit tight ends very well and Lane Kiffin's offense should be a much better fit for him.
  • Kenbrell Thompkins is another Junior College player - a wide receiver who is a little bigger than most of the receiver stock currently in Knoxville.  He's not a 6'-6" monsterbeastreceiver type per se, but he will fill the role that Brandon Warren was supposed to fill in the offense quite nicely.

I'm actually pretty happy that both of these players are junior college players.  With a recruiting class that appears to be on its way of maxing out, having a few players who finish their eligibility earlier will help maintain a healthy scholarship rotation into the next few years of recruiting classes - something I think is very important for the long-term health of the recruiting program.  Additionally, both players will play in positions that are thin in upperclassmen, which helps create cleaner, more uniform player distributions.

Here is a chart of the players by class to help visualize what I'm saying.  In this chart, the years are years in which a player's eligibility is expected to end.  If a player is a redshirt freshman (e.g. Aaron Douglas), they are listed as freshmen.  Likewise, a playing freshman is listed as a freshman, so Aaron Douglas and Marsalis Teague are both freshmen in the chart.  Ok?  Good.

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    Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman Total 2010 Commits 2010 Total
OFFENSE Quarterback 1 1 1 0 3 1 3
Halfback 1 0 1 3 5 0 4
Fullback 0 1 1 0 2 1 3
Center 2 0 1 0 3 0 1
Guard 2 0 0 4 6 1 5
Tackle 1 1 1 2 5 2 6
Tight End 1 1 1 0 3 2 4
Receiver 2 3 1 3 9 4 11
DEFENSE Tackle 2 2 0 3 7 4 9
End 1 3 2 2 8 3 10
Corner 1 2 3 2 8 0 7
Safety 1 1 1 5 8 0 7
Middle Linebacker 0 2 0 2 4 1 5
Outside Linebacker 1 1 2 3 7 1 7
SPECIAL TEAMS Punter 0 1 0 0 1 0 1
Kicker 0 1 0 0 1 1 2
Long Snapper 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
    17 20 15 29 81 21 85


The chart is very fluid; juniors who may leave early are still listed as juniors, but the potential early departees to the NFL (like Eric Berry) are not debited for the 2010 total.  Also, recruits who may end up going JUCO are not discounted.  There are more exceptions, but the basic point is that this is rough.  But it does show some good details:

  • The current sophomore class is going to be bolstered by JUCO players.  John Brown and Patrick Harris are both defensive tackle JUCO recruits, which is where the sophomore class is particularly thin.  Adding a receiver and a tight end helps round out the numbers on offense, too.  That's pretty decent for the JUCO portion of the class, and that's where JUCO players are valuable.
  • We still need offensive linemen.  For clarity, I have Jose Jose listed as a guard, though some speculate that he will be a center.  Either way, two more offensive linemen is a minimal must.  The gap of linemen in our current junior and sophomore classes are so significant as to be irrepairable.  We just have to fill in behind those classes and make do, and that starts with getting numbers now.  It'll make an imbalance down the road, but at least things will be manageable then.
  • The numbers are shaping up very, very nicely.  This may be more than just a top-ranked class.  This may be a top-ranked class that actually matches the needs of the team across the board.  If you're ever wondering how valuable Ed Orgeron is to the team, this is your answer.

Finishing Up

There are still several names floating out there.  Rumors are getting very strong that man-beast middle linebacker Jeff Luc will commit to the Vols at some undetermined point in the future.  Offensive linemen JaWuan James, John Cullen, Chaz Green, Dakota Mosley, and James Stone are the bulk of names still being floated about - roughly in order of apparent precedence/likeliness at this point.  Michael Dyer appears to be taking a serious look at Tennessee, even though he's probably favoring Auburn at the moment.  (The guy's a bowling ball; I'd love to have him here.)  There are still people insisting that Jesse Scroggins will come to UT, but I just simply don't believe it.  Matt Simms is a JUCO quarterback who might be added, but the odds seem slim there as well as he doesn't have an offer yet.  That's alright; I'm perfectly fine with only having Tyler Bray in place.  Between him, Nick Stephens, and Nick Lamaison, Tennessee should be alright in 2010.  That would leave room for a quarterback in 2010's class.  Chris Dunkley, Corey Lemonier, and Christian Jones are consistently tossed around as names as well, but it's really anybody's guess at this point.

Many of these players were in attendance during the South Carolina game, and they saw the players put the black jerseys on in the locker room.  The impression was strong, as they all have stated in later interviews that the scene was intense and special.  Black jerseys may seem like a silly point of conversation, but it's one of those things that somehow matters.  It matters to us, and it matters to them.

And to top it all off, the retirement of Mickey Andrews - the soon-to-be-former Florida State Seminoles defensive coordinator - will surely open up a poaching free-for-all on FSU's current commits and prospects.  Likewise, the defensive struggles of the Georgia Bulldogs will cast doubt on the future of Willie Martinez and the possibility that Charlie Strong may get a long overdue head coaching gig could loosen up a few Florida Gators commits.  Meanwhile, Tennessee has a brand new staff that should be stable for the next few years - a staff who is proving their ability to coach players up to win games.  The end of this recruiting season should be a wild one, with commits and decommits flying about from unforeseen directions.  It should be fun.