Phew! If you're in it for nothing more than the entertainment factor, today was a fantastic day. I mean, when you really stop and think about it, the entire concept of the pageantry of National Signing Day is absurd: take a bunch of 18 year old males, throw them into the national spotlight, and ask them to make college and lifetime decisions. Meanwhile, throw in a bunch of stars, some nutjob fans, and a bajillion ballcaps, and you get total chaos. How many of these players, caught up in the fanfare, end up making bad decision because the school has more ESPN sex appeal at that particular time?
But enough rambling. Here are my quick knee-jerk thoughts on the Tennessee class as it stands right now.
- A very respectable group. The distribution was decent, even though we really could use one or two more OL and DL each. There is a lot of projected talent coming in at the offensive skill positions and the secondary in particular.
- No QB is fine with me. This will be the primary "sky is falling" theme, but the absence of a QB shouldn't be considered a bad thing. Remember that Lane chased away two talented QBs that were already solidly UT commits; with QBs in particular, it's best not to bring in somebody that you know won't fit well. Bad things happen in those cases, and it's just as unfair to the QB as it is to the team. I like to see the coaching staff use a more methodical approach, and I really do think that the existing QBs will make for better options for the fall than any realistic recruits. Next year will be a different matter.
- No Marlon Brown is ok, too. No, I'm not crazy. No, I'm not going sour grapes on the guy. I wanted him here as badly as anybody else. But I did appreciate that he didn't jerk everybody around like we've seen other recruits do in previous years. He seemed well put-together, and I can respect his decision. I hope he has success, stays healthy, and loses to UT every year. I think that if Lane had been here for more than 2 months, and if the offensive staff could have been assembled sooner, they could have won him over. But that was not realistic - especially considering when the NFL season ends.
- Lack of depth is the concern, not lack of talent. Here's a quick exercise for you: go back through Scout and Rivals and take a look at UT's recruiting classes over the last 3 or 4 years (including this year). Note the average star rankings we've been pulling. They're not spectacular. In fact, this year is an improvement. In that span, it's the second-highest average class (behind 2007), and that by a large margin. (Yes, stars are not a guarantee; in large groups, however, stars do an admirable job of projecting potential. Leave it at that.) The bottom line is this: the kids who are considered the best are interested in UT. Some are switching from other juggernauts despite such a short tenure of the new coaches. But depth is still thin, particularly with the linemen. We have the talent in place, but injuries will be a big concern going forward in this year.
- Lockdown of the state is in progress. Keep in mind that no coach every truly "locks down" a state. But if the best recruits all give that state school an honest look (except for those kids who are already affiliated with other schools via Big Daddy Alum or other means), that's as much as you can hope for. We had that today; even if Marlon didn't sign with UT, he had to think it over very hard.
- Sit back. Relax. Breathe. This is just the start. Now we come to the coaching and developing of the players and the team. This is a reboot of the team. Do not place unfair burdens on them yet; if UT loses to Florida again, that doesn't necessarily mean that the new staff is a dud. If they win, it doesn't necessarily mean the new staff can walk on water. Remember, we jumped the gun with Clawson and that's probably what ended up costing Fulmer his job.
- You have to like having positive surprises for a change. Raise your hand if you expected both Marsalis and Nu'Keese to sign with UT. Thank you; that'll make it easy to tell who's been smoking with Michael Phelps. (ba-dump ching!) Yes, we lost out on Montgomery and Brown, but we didn't only lose out. UT also managed a few surprise pickups along the way. Enjoy that and smile.
That's about all I have for now. Between the chaos, the coursework, and the problems at the server level, I'm pretty well done for the day. Now it's time to relax and get ready for the presser at 5:30 (UTSports.com), the men's basketball game tonight, and Pat Summitt's 1,000th win tomorrow!