Everybody wins on signing day. No one ever seems anything less than jubilant when those fax machines start humming and the letters of intent continue to roll on in. The coaches hype up the class as the best collection of talent they've ever signed and are pleased with the depth they've acquired and the needs that have been met. The fans particularly get excited when they see those ever so rare five-star recruits sign with their school. Expectations are immediately high for these players and anything short of locking down a starting spot by their sophomore seasons is looked upon with disappointment. This list is a cautionary tale of the horror that has been Tennessee recruiting in recent memory, prior to Butch arriving that is. After looking over this list, you may think twice about getting too excited about player expectations until we see how these guys perform on the field and once they spend some time adjusting to life living away from home.
#10 - Nu'Keese Richardson
Rocky Top was ready to sing in the Swamp after Lane Kiffin snatched Richardson out from under Florida right before signing day. It happened so fast, I assume they forgot to run a background check first. Nu'Keese was rated as one of the top players in the state of Florida and in the top 100 of Rivals rankings in 2009, but after a few short months on campus, he was rated pretty low on Pilot/Knoxville PD rankings. Richardson was the ring leader in the armed robbery fiasco that got himself and Mike Edwards thrown off the team after an eight catch, 100 yard career at Tennessee. Urban Meyer still lays awake at night thinking about the lone criminal recruit that got away from him.
#9 - Cameron Clear
Clear was the can't miss target in Tennessee in 2011. Derek Dooley swore he could play tight end or offensive tackle, if he couldn't play one successfully he would just slide over to the other position. At 6'6", 265 lbs with huge, soft hands, Clear was set to become the next Jason Witten for the Vols. Unfortunately for Tennessee, before Clear ever saw the field his eyes caught some items he just had to have! Clear reportedly stole electronics, including a laptop, from some teammates and got caught selling the items by Knoxville PD. Clear was immediately sent packing, only to resurface at Texas A&M. Watch your stuff Sumlin, Clear is on the prowl!
#8 - LaMarcus Coker
Coker was rated as the second best all-purpose back in the nation by Rivals in 2005 and in the top 100 overall players in the nation that season. Coker redshirted his first year on campus, then in 2006 he burst into the scene. Coker scored a touchdown on his very first reception and never looked back. He ended his season with over 700 yards rushing, which lead the team, and scored six touchdowns. Coker was named All-SEC Freshmen and Freshmen All American by the Sporting News. He must have took the news very well and started partying like it was 1999! Entering 2007, Coker was named the starter over some dude named Arian Foster. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of Coker's career. Coker was soon kicked off the team after failing his fourth (!!!) drug test.
#7 - James Banks
Banks was a highly touted dual-threat QB, #30 overall player in the nation according to Rivals in 2002, from Indianapolis that choose the Vols over Florida and Michigan (back then Michigan was actually relevant in football). Most anticipated Banks would come in and take the job from the often underrated Casey "The Iceman" Clausen but that never came close to happening. Banks was quickly converted to WR where he was known for two plays: the Hail Mary touchdown at Florida in 2003 and inconceivably falling on his face pre-snap. If you Google "James Banks Tennessee" the second link is to a forum headline asking, "What ever happened to James Banks?". That pretty much sums up his career.
#6 - Maurice Couch
Derek Dooley's prized recruit in 2011 was the JUCO All-American Couch, rated #2 JUCO player in the nation at the time of his commitment. Couch came in at a good time, as Tennessee was extremely thin on the defensive front and most assumed Couch could walk in and start for the Vols, nope. It took Couch several games to crack the starting lineup and wound up starting four games his first year at UT and only nine games his second year. Couch eventually found himself kicked off the team after taking money from an agent his senior year. Couch's career ended prematurely with 3.5 sacks and an average of 3 tackles per game. Way to reel in the big fish Dooley!
#5 - Janzen Jackson
Lane Kiffin's second contribution to the list! Kiffin, in an early display of his thieving ways, stole Jackson from LSU prior to signing day. The five-star Jackson was ranked as the #2 player in Louisiana and #17 in the nation at the time of his commitment. Despite Tennessee not having an immediate need at safety, Jackson was still able to crack the starting lineup early on in his career. Jackson was suspended once during his freshman season and also played a part in the infamous Pilot armed robbery fiasco. Shockingly, Jackson was not kicked off the team, the dude was a stud on the field but come on! Jackson seemingly turned his life around and ended up starting every game his sophomore season before being kicked off the team for failing multiple drug tests. Sadly, things haven't improved for Jackson as he was charged with murdering his mother's boyfriend early this year. Yikes...
#4 - Demetrice Morley
The star of Tennessee's 2005 recruiting class, Morley was a five-star rated as the #2 corner in the nation and #21 player in the nation by Rivals. Morley was the rare player that played two seasons before getting redshirted in what would have been his junior year, without being injured. Morley also earned the rare distinction of being kicked off the team twice by two different coaches! That's probably the only record he broke while at UT. Morley wasn't a terrible player but never lived up to his incredible hype.
#3 - Brent Vinson
Vinson deserves special mention on this list as he was technically a nine-star recruit. How you may ask? Well Tennessee had to sign him twice, once as a four-star high schooler and again as a five-star JUCO. That's a lot of stars for someone who's most famous for being arrested in connection to a murder. Vinson's best season was actually his freshman season as he started 10 games and played in all 14. From there on out, Vinson was a total no show on the field and was eventually dismissed by Lane Kiffin. Imagine Kiffin thinking someone's too dirty to be on his team, good Lord!
#2 - Bryce Brown
Kiffin's crown jewel of the 2009 recruiting class, and the #1 overall player in the nation, was suppose to be a game changer in Knoxville. In his lone season on campus, Brown finished second on the team in rushing with just under 500 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. As soon as Kiffin decided to bolt Knoxville, Brown followed up by heading back to the bastion of awesome that is Kansas. Brown was hardly worth the heartache he caused Vol Nation.
#1 - Da'Rick Rogers
Tennessee's star of the 2010 recruiting class was rated in the top 10 overall and the #1 player in Georgia at the time of his commitment. If only Tennessee knew he'd be in the top 10 headaches too. Rogers' Rivals page compares him to Calvin Johnson! I personally saw more Terrell Owens in him, as both players were so physically imposing, yet possessed break away speed and topped it all off with character issues. Rogers has the proud distinction of being arrested on campus before ever setting foot on the practice field. If Rogers wasn't so talented, he may have been cut right then and there. After a slow start, and the learning curve from high school, Rogers really came into his own by the end of his sophomore season and very well could have been the best receiver in the SEC his junior year. Unfortunately, Rogers never made it that far as he failed too many drug tests and was thrown off the team. I still have dreams of how nasty Tennessee's offense could have been with Tyler Bray throwing to Rodgers, Justin Hunter, Mychal Rivera and Cordarrelle Patterson.
The moral of the story? Don't get too excited about the next stud Tennessee player signs, they may turn out to be just a dud.