Wednesday, February 07, 2007


National Signing Day, 2007

7:31 A.M.

Well, National Signing Day is here - a day that has become somewhat mythical for hundreds of thousands of diehard college football fans. Just check out the explosion of memberships with Rivals sites,, SuperPrep, and other sites dedicated to college football recruiting, and you'll see that speculating as to which football recruit has the most promise has become big business.

All that fans and coaches can do today is sit back and see if the work that has gone into recruiting these kids - from letters and text messages sent by coaches to fans welcoming recruits on official visits - pays off.

Once I receive word that the NCAA Letters of Intent have arrived for certain recruits at the Athletic Department offices, as I did last year, I will post so here and give a little take on the recruit's background and what Vol fans can expect from each particular player. If Tennessee can hold on to the verbal commitments that it has received over the past year for the Class of 2007, then we should be looking at one of the Top 3 classes in America come the end of the day.

Unlike last year, I am going to keep this in on continuous thread instead of a dozen hourly updates. We'll see if that works better or not.

The first LOIs are expected to be signed around 8:00 A.M. I should have another update around then.

8:04 A.M.

No LOIs yet, but I am hearing some news on two of the biggest uncommitted players that UT hope will choose the Vols today. Dwight Jones, the #4 WR in the country who could be (skills-wise) the next Randy Moss but still is a luxury with this WR Signing Class for UT, is sounding like he might be a UT Signing. He is set to sign between 10 and 11 this morning, and it is between Tennessee, North Carolina, and Clemson for Jones.

Marvin Austin, the #1 DT in the Nation, looks to be between Florida State and North Carolina. Some thought UT might have a chance with Austin, but I had some interaction with him during his official visit to Knoxville, and I felt right then that he wasn't interested in the Big Orange.

More to come...

8:14 A.M.

OK, three LOIs have just arrived here in Knoxville. They are from C.J. Fleming, B.J. Coleman, and Cory Hall.

C.J. Fleming

Highland Springs, Virginia
5’10”, 165 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #25 CB in America

Even with UT’s losses in the defensive secondary from last year, Fleming could be a possible “grayshirt” candidate depending on how many recruits Tennessee signs today. Once regarded as one of the best defensive players in Virginia, Fleming’s stock has dropped as more game film has become available.

B.J. Coleman

Chattanooga, Tennessee
6’4”, 180 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 4 Stars; #10 QB in America; Top 250 Players in America

When UT offered a scholarship to Coleman in June of 2006, most Vol fans said, “Who?” At the time, Coleman was a lowly regarded 2-star QB in a run-oriented offense at McCallie in Chattanooga. Even to the most optimistic of fans, this looked like a stretch. However, the eye for talent that Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Fulmer have regarding QB’s has been validated by Coleman’s rise up the rankings in his senior year. Anyone who saw the film of his stirring field generalship this year in come-from-behind wins over Murfreesboro Riverdale and Brentwood Academy knew that Coleman has what it takes to play QB in the SEC. Coleman wrapped up his high school career with an outstanding performance in the national East-West All-Star Game, where he was selected by the coaches as one of the best recruits in attendance.

Cory Hall

Strongside Defensive End
Chattanooga, Tennessee
6'5", 255 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 2 Stars

Some Vol fans weren't too happy to see Hall commit to UT this week, as they believed (correctly) that signing him hurts UT's overall class due to his low star rating. However, those people need to quit thinking about recruiting championships and start thinking about SEC Championships. Hall is a sign-and-place, meaning that he will be at a prep school or junior college next year to work on his academics. However, you have to like Hall's attitude, as he would have been eligible immediately at Marshall or MTSU if he had signed with them but instead chose to sign with the Vols and their higher academic standards. Hall has incredible talent - 155 tackles, 22 sacks, 31 tackles for loss all in his senior year - but just needs to get his academics in order. He is probably the biggest sleeper in this class, but he could pay off down the road.

More to come...

8:26 A.M.

Word is starting to filter down that Ahmad Paige, 6'3" WR from Louisiana, may have committed to Coach Fulmer last night. Paige was down between Tennessee and Southern Cal. If Dwight Jones, Brent Vinson, Ahmad Paige, Kenny O'Neal, Gerald Jones, Tyler Maples, Darnius Moore, and Todd Campbell all make it in for the Vols, this could be the best wide receiver signing class - ever.

8:41 A.M.

Two more LOIs have arrived - those of Nevin McKenzie and Tyler Maples.

Nevin McKenzie

Athens, Texas
6'2", 210 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 4 Stars; #12 JUCO Player in the Nation

McKenzie committed to the Vols and Coach Trooper Taylor just two weeks ago, choosing Tennessee over Florida. An outstanding junior college safety, McKenzie was all but offered the starting safety position at both UT and UF, both schools having lost their starting safeties recently (Florida's Nelson to the NFL, Tennessee's Morley to grades). Having struck out on safeties in this class, McKenzie may not be the highest rated signee Tennessee will have today, but he certainly may be one of the most important regarding the 2007 season due to his position. On film, McKenzie hits like Ronnie Lott - and I wouldn't say that about many players. The film doesn't show his coverage abilities (mostly because it focuses on the knockout hits that he apparently does with regularity). As with every JUCO that Tennessee brings in, McKenzie will be expected to contribute immediately.

Tyler Maples

Wide Receiver
Maryville, Tennessee
6'2", 180 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #18 Player in Tennessee

Maples is another local product that decided to stay in Knoxville. Some believe that he is a "possession receiver," but anyone who saw him play for the Maryville Rebels knows that he is nothing of the sort. Maples ran a blistering 4.38 40-yard dash at the Tennessee camp last year and has deceptive leaping ability on deep balls. It will be interesting to see where he fits in with this incredible class of WRs, but there is no doubt that Tennessee got a winner (3 State Championships) in Maples.

More to come...

8:54 A.M.

Georgia just lost their #1 Offensive Lineman to a decommitment. Bobby Bowden came in and stole Antwan Greenlee from under Mark Richt's nose. Don't feel bad for Georgia, though, because they are putting together a great offensive and defensive line class, although they are shockingly short on playmakers this year.

The 9:00 LOIs are right around the corner...

9:04 A.M.

Not too many players expected to fax in LOIs during this hour, with the big hour being the 10:00 A.M. hour.

I just received word that Josh Hawkins has faxed in his LOI.

Josh Hawkins

Running Back
Loudon, Tennessee
6’1”, 190 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #20 Player in Tennessee

Hawkins committed early to UT, and his game film is more impressive than his ratings by Rivals. Some have questioned the level of competition in assessing his game film, but he appears to be a decent running back with average (4.5 40-yard time) speed. Hawkins will more than likely find his way onto special teams early in his career, where he could make an impact as he waits his turn for inclusion in the running back rotation.

More to come...

9:10 A.M.

Five members of the Class of 2007 are already on campus, having enrolled mid-term and started classes in January. Here are those players.

Darius Sawtelle

Offensive Tackle
Birmingham, Michigan
6’6”, 295 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 4 Stars; #10 OT in the Nation; Top 250 Players in America

Sawtelle is another legacy for UT, his grandfather (Darris McCord) having played for the Big Orange and eventually the Detroit Lions for 13 years in the NFL. Sawtelle was the first of the “big time” recruits to commit to Tennessee back last summer, and he is already on campus taking classes in Knoxville. While he and Cody Pope make up the offensive line class for UT, they both are on campus already and both look to be fantastic talents. Sawtelle was reportedly very impressive in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl against some of the best talent in the nation, and with the size of this class, his day as a starter on this team is only a couple of years away.

Cody Pope

Offensive Tackle
San Diego, California
6’5”, 275 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars

Pope was part of the 2006 Class and actually was practicing with the team in August when his test score was flagged. He was ruled ineligible by the NCAA and had to return to California. This was unfortunate since he looked to be much better than advertised. Here is what I wrote about Cody last year:

Cody Pope, who received an offer from the Southern Cal juggernaut only a few days ago, has kept true to his word and has signed with The University of Tennessee. Pope, who attends Cathedral Catholic in San Diego, California, is an underrated offensive lineman who, along with Ramone Johnson and Jacques McClendon, helps to form an imposing offensive line class (the strength of UT's class this year). At 6'5" and 268 pounds, Cody needs to add some muscle to his ample frame. However, Pope reminds me of the offensive linemen that UT used to have back in the early 1990s - the ones that could get out on screens and block downfield. It wouldn't surprise me to see him as a guard or center (if Josh McNeil has trouble overcoming his injuries) and seeing playing time around 2007. It also helps Tennessee to pull another talented player out of California, especially with the talent (including Jimmy Clausen) coming out of that state in 2007.

Well, Cody did add that muscle, training during his unexpected time in California at high altitude. He has already been readmitted to UT, and he is currently taking classes in Knoxville. While it may have been a rough ride for Cody, the extra year of growing, maturing, and getting stronger may be a blessing in disguise for one of only 2 offensive line prospects in this class.

Todd Campbell

Wide Receiver
Franklin, Tennessee
6’0”, 183 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #15 Player in Tennessee

Campbell is yet another Tennessee high school player that has chosen to stay in-state and play for the Big Orange. Although there is plenty of credit to go around – especially with Coach Trooper Taylor and Coach Fulmer – Campbell has to be given kudos for helping reel in several members of this class by taking up the banner of pushing the Vols on other top recruits. Campbell is already on campus taking classes, and the advantage that he will have over the other standout wide receivers in this class will be the opportunity to go through Spring Practice (which starts in just a matter of days).

Art Evans

Lakeland, Florida
6'1", 180 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #46 Athlete in the Nation

Evans may get overlooked in this class of stars, but his film shows that he is a prototype cornerback that should be able to contribute while at Tennessee. Everything I have heard is that he is a quality young man, as well. Having played against the strong high school competition in Florida, Evans could be the sleeper of this class (if a 3 star player can be considered a sleeper).

Donald Langley

Defensive Tackle
Germantown, Maryland
6'2", 295 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 4 Stars; #12 DT in the Nation; Top 250 Players in America

Langley's film shows that he should be able to contribute fairly early in his career at a position of need for the Vols. His explosion off of the line might be the second best of this year's national class (behind Marvin Austin), and he doesn't seem to take any plays off (from reports from the Offense-Defense All-Star Game). Tennessee had to battle in-state Maryland and Penn State (where Langley's entire family wanted him to sign) for Langley's services. With him being on-campus right now and being able to go through Spring Practice, it's not unrealistic to think that Langley could be in the DT rotation in 2007.

More to come...

9:26 A.M.

Several LOIs are coming in earlier than expected. Savion Frazier, Darnius Moore, Daryl Vereen, and Brent Vinson are the newest Vols.

Savion Frazier

Outside Linebacker
Woodbridge, Virginia
6’0”, 209 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #37 OLB in America

Much like B.J. Coleman, several pundits questioned the scholarship offer to Savion Frazier, who at the time was a 2-star recruit at a position of strength for UT. However, Frazier has seen his stock rise much like Coleman’s, with Virginia Tech and Louisville offering the undersized OLB since he verbally committed to Tennessee. Frazier’s film shows a strong motor and tons of effort. While he may contribute early on special teams, Frazier could be a possible “grayshirt” if numbers become an issue for the Vols. That would allow Frazier time to put on the weight that it takes to play linebacker in the SEC.

Darnius Moore

Wide Receiver
Tatum, Texas
6’0”, 175 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #34 Athlete in America

A teammate of Lennon Creer at Tatum High School in Texas, Moore comes to Tennessee as a versatile athlete that will start on the offensive side of the ball but could end up being used at a variety of positions. A champion hurdler, Moore looks to me much like Mark Jones when he was at UT – capable of playing a variety of positions due to his incredible athletic talents. Moore chose Tennessee mainly over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Daryl Vereen

Running Back
Huntersville, North Carolina
6'1", 205 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #35 RB in the Nation

Vereen was an early commitment to Tennessee, and like B.J. Coleman, his senior year showed that Tennessee's coaches have an excellent eye for talent. Vereen was the leading rusher in North Carolina, gaining over 2,600 yards and scoring 31 touchdowns his senior year. There was some concern that Tennessee would lose Vereen when Lennon Creer committed to Tennessee and with strong interest from in-state North Carolina, but Tennessee's offensive coaches were able to keep Vereen in the fold. With Creer and Rogan, Vereen looks to be part of a special corps of running backs that should all see the field within the next few years at Tennessee.

Brent Vinson

Wide Receiver
Chatham, Tennessee
6'2", 180 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 5 Stars; #2 Prep School Player in America

Vinson originally signed with Tennessee last year, but academics forced him to take a one-year detour to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. The best friend of UT freshman basketball stud Duke Crews, Vinson never wavered in his commitment to the Vols. Last year, I wrote the following about Vinson:

Brent Vinson was one of the top WR targets of the Vols this year, along with Videl Hazelton (USC), Tim Hawthorne (Auburn), and Audrey Baskin (Syracuse). Of those, I would rank Vinson ahead of Hawthorne, even with Baskin (Baskin is bigger, but Vinson is faster), and behind Hazelton. In any case, all of those players are excellent WRs and should see the field early in their careers. Vinson picks Tennessee over Virginia Tech, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Vinson is 6'2", 180 pounds, and runs a 4.3 40. Additionally, Brent can bench 320 pounds, has a 39 inch vertical leap, and a GPA of 3.1. Coach Fulmer can thank Bruce Pearl for assisting in the signing of Vinson, who is best friends with Duke Crews, a UT basketball signee that may start for Pearl's Vols next year.

"It is going to be great having Duke there. It makes it easier to go away from home. But Tennessee has had a great football program for a long time. They have had great players like Peyton Manning and Jamal Lewis and a lot of other guys. Plus, coach Cutcliffe is back to make the offense better."

Vinson likes his odds of gaining early playing time in Knoxville.

"I think I do a good job catching the football. And I understand that they struggled with that last year. But I also can do some things after I make the catch. I like to think that I do a good job with YAC (yards after catch) yards. I like to think that I can take a short pass and turn it into a long gain."

Vinson's performances at Hargrave were mind-blowing. During one game against West Virginia's JV team, he reportedly racked up over 400 yards of offense. With the rest of this year's predicted receiving corps, this could be an embarrassment of riches for Tennessee for the next several years at the receiver position.

More to come...

9:48 A.M.

Two more LOIs in to the offices on The Hill - Eric Berry and Kevin Cooper.

Eric Berry

Fairburn, Georgia
5’11”, 194 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 5 Stars; #1 CB in America; #3 Player in America

Eric Berry will be UT’s highest rated recruit in the 2007 Class, and he could be the most important due to his position. UT lost both of its starting CB’s from last year, so there is a real opportunity for Eric Berry to be a starter come the 2007 opener at California. All of these expectations surround Berry, yet he has only played CB in the Army All-American game on NBC in January. Berry played wherever he was needed in high school, which usually meant QB and Safety. However, those who coached him in San Antonio and watched him in that game have said that he may contain the best natural cover skills as any high schooler in the past decade. Berry was a natural fit for Tennessee, his father having been one of the captains of the 1981 Tennessee team and a former teammate of Coach Chavis. Given his incredible skill set, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Berry used on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as early this upcoming season.

Kevin Cooper

Chattanooga, Tennessee
6’1”, 240 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #3 Fullback in America

Tennessee once again dips into Chattanooga for a RB. Unlike Gerald Riggs, Jr., Kevin Cooper is a bruising blocker who shows on film that he isn’t afraid of contact. Given UT’s problems at the fullback position this past year (where Coach Cutcliffe eventually elected to go with a one-back set since the FB’s were so ineffective), Cooper could see early playing time if he can master the pass-blocking schemes. With his frame and weight, Cooper could see the field early and often at Tennessee.

More to come...

10:14 A.M.

LOIs are flowing in to Knoxville. Welcome to the newest Vols - Chris Donald, William Brimfield, and Rolando Melancon.

Chris Donald

Inside Linebacker
Huntingdon, Tennessee
6'2", 220 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 5 Stars; #1 ILB in the Nation; #18 Player in America; #1 Player in Tennessee

Unlike recent years, Coach Fulmer has been able to convince the top player in Tennessee to stay in-state and play for the Big Orange. Notre Dame tried to pry Donald to South Bend, but the lure of playing for his boyhood favorite team in Knoxville was too great for Weis to overcome. Donald committed to UT on national television at the U.S. Army All-Star game, and he has been solid ever since. A close friend of fellow Vol signee Chris Walker, UT just seemed the natural place for Donald to end up. While Donald certainly has the speed (4.59 40-yard dash) to play MLB, it is his form tackling that is the most impressive on film. As the only MLB in this class, Donald will be expected to take over in the middle of the Vol defense after the current group of Mayo, Karl, and McCoy move on.

William Brimfield

Defensive Tackle
Neeses, South Carolina
6'5", 287 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 3 Stars; #28 DT in the Nation

Brimfield picked Tennessee over the home-state tandum of South Carolina and Clemson. While he might be the lowest ranked DT of Tennessee's class (compared to Langley and Melancon), he might be the strongest member of the class on film. His heighth may remind Vol fans of the days when John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth filled the middle of the defensive line at UT. Given UT's constant need for DT talent, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Brimfield filling an active role in the DT rotation come 2008.

Rolando Melancon

Defensive Tackle
Lutcher, Louisiana
6'2", 260 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 4 Stars; #22 DT in the Nation

Melancon gave Vol fans a scare this past weekend, having taken a visit to see the lying snake Nick Saban at Alabama with his family. Melancon stayed true to the Big Orange, though, and his ability to fill the middle of the field will pay big dividends for Tennessee in the future. Although listed at 260 pounds, Melancon plays much bigger (and may be much bigger, actually). He doesn't play with the explosion of a Donald Langley or Marvin Austin, but Melancon can occupy multiple blockers, allowing the linebackers to roam freely and make plays. I expect either Langley or Melancon to see serious time on the field in 2007, although both (along with Brimfield) will form a solid defensive nucleus to build around for years to come.

More to come...

10:40 A.M.

Two notes: Dwight Jones, who was set to sign at 10:00 A.M., has pushed back his announcement and will now announce from his home. Could this be good news for the Vols, since it might be a bit tougher to sign for the out-of-state school in a public setting at the high school? We shall see.

Also, Alcoa's Kyrus Lanxter, a WR who had verbally committed to West Virginia, has reportedly decommitted and has signed a LOI with Kentucky. That's a bit of a surprise, and it shows that UK is heading in the right direction under Rich Brooks.

More to come...

10:49 A.M.

A telephone report from North Carolina has Dwight Jones signing with North Carolina.

10:54 A.M.

It appears that one of the deciding factors for Dwight Jones was his desire to stay near his infant daughter in North Carolina. It's a double-edged sword for Tennessee. They more than likely keep the electric Gerald Jones now, but Dwight Jones is an incredible talent that might only come about every once in a great while.

Five LOIs have made their way to The Hill. Four are expected (DeAngelo Willingham, Kenny O'Neal, Ben Martin, and Dennis Rogan), while one only announced his intentions today (Ahmad Paige).

DeAngelo Willingham

Palm Desert, California
6'0", 205 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 4 Stars; #38 JUCO Player in America

Willingham, much like Nevin McKenzie and Kenny O'Neal, will be expected to perform immediately in his two years on The Hill. Coach Fulmer doesn't take JUCO players to have them learn and sit on the bench. Willingham probably projects as a starter in 2007, and, much like Todd Campbell and Eric Berry, he has played a major roll in recruiting other great athletes to make this one of Fulmer's best recruiting classes (if not the best).

Kenny O'Neal

Wide Receiver
San Francisco, California
6'0", 195 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 5 Stars; #3 JUCO Player in America

Kenny O'Neal's talent - which is immense - has never been an issue. One of the most sought after recruits in America upon graduation from high school, O'Neal signed with Florida State and actually played some at FSU as a freshman. However, he was dismissed from the team for "conduct detrimental to the team." A year in the JUCO ranks has helped O'Neal gain some perspective, and the burner from California is ready to make the most of his second chance. O'Neal's speed is legendary, as he had the fastest indoor 60-meter time in the nation in 2004 with a time of 6.68 seconds. This past year at the City College of San Francisco, O'Neal reportedly ran a 4.20 40-yard dash - putting him in rare air as a burner. O'Neal will be expected to perform immediately as a JUCO signee, and he certainly has the talent to do so.

Ben Martin

Strongside Defensive End
Cincinnati, Ohio
6'5", 230 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 5 Stars; #2 Strongside DE in the Nation; #20 Player in the Nation

Martin spurned such programs as his in-state Ohio State Buckeyes, Florida, and Notre Dame in surprisingly picking to play his football at The University of Tennessee. Martin did so in style, announcing his selection on national television at the Army All-American game. Because of the depth that UT has at DE, it is unlikely that Martin finds the field this year, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him starting come 2008. His wingspan is a formidible advantage for a DE, and he should be a well-rounded player, capable of playing both the run and the pass. I am still shocked that Martin didn't end up in Columbus, and pulling arguably the best player out of Ohio with OSU still a national power is a great coups for Coach Cutcliffe, who was Martin's primary recruiter.

Dennis Rogan

Running Back
Knoxville, Tennessee
5’10”, 167 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #8 All-Purpose Running Back in America

Anyone who has seen this Fulton Falcon play over the past few years knows what a special player Tennessee is getting from its own backyard. Rogan wasn’t as highly recruited by other schools due to what was perceived to be academic concerns (although he now projects as a full-qualifier), which is why prospects like Harrison Smith received more publicity over the more athletic and versatile Rogan. Rogan capped off a career where he rewrote the high school record books in Tennessee with a 208 yard, 2 TD performance in the State Championship Game this past December, giving Fulton its third State Title in Rogan’s 4 years as a player there. Having watched him dominate on the local scene, I will be extremely interested to see how Rogan performs once he gets to test his skills against the other athletes of the SEC.

Ahmad Paige

Wide Receiver
Sterlington, Louisiana
6’3”, 175 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 4 Stars; #14 WR in America; Top 250 Players in America

Paige announced today in what has been a crazy recruiting experience for him. An early commitment of Florida State, Paige decommitted from the Seminoles one month from National Signing Day. His focus was on Florida, Tennessee, and Southern Cal down the stretch, with Florida being eliminated from the running last week. Paige’s film is impressive, but having viewed him in person at UT’s game against LSU, it appears to me that he will need some time in the weight room before seeing much of the field on offense for the Vols. Of course, that plan could change with Tennessee desperately needing help at WR with the departure of Meachem, Swain, and Smith from last year’s team.

More to come...

11:39 A.M.

Marvin Austin, a beast of a DT, rated the #1 DT in America, and the #7 player in America, has reportedly signed with North Carolina. The Tar Heels, along with Miami, Florida State, and USC, are having the best days amongst the few recruits that were uncommitted going into today.

Noel Devine, a RB out of Florida who has one of the best groups of game film ever created, is reportedly having cold feet regarding his verbal commitment to West Virginia. Devine's talent is incredible - I literally thought that someone had doctored the film when I first viewed him 2 years ago - but his academics are much more than a question. He is probably headed to junior college, but West Virginia would certainly love to sign-and-place him because most kids tend to honor their previous commitments when that occurs.

Two more LOIs are in to The Hill - Lennon Creer and Anthony Anderson.

Lennon Creer

Running Back
Tatum, Texas
6’1”, 202 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 4 Stars; #6 RB in America; #57 Player in America

Creer is the most highly ranked RB out of those that Tennessee is looking to sign in this class. A teammate of 2007 UT signee Darnius Moore, Creer is a power RB in the mould of Jamal Lewis. Having recently led Tatum to a State Championship while scoring an astounding 36 touchdowns in his senior season alone, Creer’s reputation as an exhaustive worker and as a back that isn’t afraid of contact gives UT the makings of a fantastic backfield in the 2007 Class with Darryl Vereen and Dennis Rogan. I thought that this class was set at RB with Vereen and Rogan (two of my favorite players out of this class), but Creer's physical style of play is a natural for a Fulmer-coached team. Trooper Taylor can be credited with signing Creer, who was highly coveted by Oklahoma and Alabama.

Anthony Anderson

Wide Receiver/Safety
Knoxville, Tennessee
6’0”, 175 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #40 Athlete in the Nation

It’s hard to believe that Anthony Anderson has been a verbal commitment to Tennessee for nearly one year to the day. Anderson is a very good athlete whose team had a poor year his senior season. It remains to be seen where Anderson will end up on the football field, but he certainly seems a candidate for an early redshirt while the coaches see where his talents will be best put to use.

More to come...

11:55 A.M.

Notre Dame is having a bad day (kind of like any time they have to play in a bowl game or a non-service academy). One message board regular just posted the following:

"Even the Pope has decommitted from Notre Dame today."

Florida has also had a few defections.

12:00 P.M.

UT has 27 LOIs in hand, with only about half a dozen possibilities still out there. All that remains are UT verbals Deshaun Barnes, Gerald Jones, Chris Walker, Gerald Williams, and Rufus Williams, as well as uncommitted prospect Marquis Maze (who is probably going to Alabama).

One needs only look at the number of players that have signed with the Vols that have mentioned Coach Trooper Taylor as a deciding factor in their decision to see how important Troop is to this program. Despite being one of the best position coaches, he is also our best recruiter (and needs a raise, AD Hamilton). Just read what Ahmad Paige, who just committed to UT today, had to say about his decision:

"Last night, I actually told coach Troop that I was going to Southern Cal," Paige offered. "But he talked me out of it. He stressed family and making sure they could see me play and that Tennessee was a great fit for me. Then, I talked to some other recruits. Some guys who weren't going to Southern Cal or Tennessee and that helped me see things. I just realized that Tennessee was the best place."

Trooper Taylor is worth his weight in gold, Mike Hamilton. Pay the man.

More to come...

12:10 P.M.

Joe McKnight, the #1 RB in the nation and #2 overall recruit in the nation, has just faxed his papers into Southern Cal. This is relevant to UT fans because McKnight was down to USC, LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss. If we see McKnight on the field, it will be in a bowl game and not playing for the SEC Championship.

Notre Dame has lost another recruit, this one to North Carolina. Greg Little, the #13 Athlete in the nation, has chosen to stay in the Research Triangle and sporn the Golden Domers. Notre Dame isn't doing well with "Little's" today, having already lost Chris Little, the #11 Offensive Guard in the nation, to Georgia.

More to come...

12:30 P.M.

Noel Devine has apparently been advised by his adopted father, Deion Sanders, not to sign anywhere today. Apparently, he is going to go to a prep school and then reopen his recruitment in a year (or however long it takes for him to get eligible, which may be never). What a soap opera...

Kourtnei Brown, the #12 Weakside Defensive End in America, has decided to attend Clemson, leaving Alabama at the alter. It's funny - North Carolina's purchase of Butch Davis looks like a steal compared to the money that Alabama is paying Nick Saban to not recruit top athletes.

More to come...

12:42 P.M.

Another LOI has made it in - Tennessee's own Chris Walker.

Chris Walker

Outside Linebacker
Memphis, Tennessee
6'3", 220 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 4 Stars; #14 OLB in the Nation

Walker is a lifelong Vols fan, so his signing with UT is the realization of a lifelong dream. Having spoken to his mother, their entire family is so thrilled that Chris will be attending UT with one of his good friends, Chris Donald. Walker flows to the ball very well, and he lays the wood when he gets to the ball. Donald could work a bit on shedding blockers, but he will be a starter for UT for 2-3 years. It will be interesting to see if Walker is redshirted in 2007 or sees time on special teams this year.

More to come...

12:55 P.M.

Brandon Paul, one of those incredible prospects that seems to always be available in Tallahassee, has surprised no one by signing with the Seminoles. Tennessee was initially one of the teams Paul was considering, but the defensive back might have been a bit worried about competition with Berry, Willingham, McKenzie, and Evans already on board. Besides, as mentioned below, expecting to land 2 recruits from Tallahassee in a given year isn't really realistic.

One more LOI has come in for UT - Deshaun Barnes.

Deshaun Barnes

Tallahassee, Florida
6’3”, 195 lbs.
Rivals Rating: 3 Stars; #25 Safety in the Nation

It’s very unusual for Tennessee to sign any player out of Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, which has functioned as a feeder school for Florida State over the years. Tennessee has lost many a player to the Noles out of Lincoln, particularly defensive backs. In Barnes, UT gets an excellent athlete at a position of need. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Barnes getting some playing time in dime situations as soon as 2007 given the losses that Tennessee has suffered in the secondary. One concern for Vol fans is the defensive staff’s tendency to turn defenders of Barnes’ size into small linebackers (like Ryan Karl). Barnes’ film seems to suggest that he should stay at DB.

More to come...

1:12 P.M.

In a bit of a surprise, Rae Sykes has signed a LOI with Tennessee.

Rae Sykes

Weakside Defensive End
Alcoa, Tennessee
6'4", 240 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 4 Stars; #14 Weakside DE in the Nation

This is a bit of a surprise. Sykes has been consistantly linked with Brandon Warren, Alcoa's stud recruit from last year who ended up starting as a freshman at FSU, and it was widely assumed that Sykes would follow Warren to Tallahassee. That has obviously not happened, and Sykes will eventually make his way up Alcoa Highway to UT. I say eventually because it appears from all accounts that Sykes will not qualify academically this year, so he will likely be placed at a prep school or junior college by UT in the hopes of getting him academically squared away before bringing him on campus. From a talent standpoint, Sykes compares favorably with Warren. If he can get his academics in order, Sykes would make a powerful DE tandum with Ben Martin for UT in the future.

More to come...

1:23 P.M.

I previously listed Gerald Williams as one that UT was waiting on. That is not the case. Gerald Williams is a saga if there ever was one. Today would have been the 3rd time that Williams would have signed with UT, as he is a true casualty of an NCAA Clearinghouse that is making a mockery of this young man's life. Williams has received qualifying marks on the ACT, only to have the score voided because he improved the score too much. At least that is the NCAA's story. Williams is currently in junior college in California and hopes to be at UT next January.

Gerald Jones, a phenomenal WR that Tennessee badly covets, is set to announce in a few minutes at a press conference in Oklahoma. He has been a UT commit for some time, but Texas Tech and Oklahoma State think that they are the winners in this horserace. We'll know in a matter of minutes.

More to come...

1:51 P.M.

This press conference is taking forever...

2:31 P.M.

After what was probably the longest press conference in the history of mankind, Gerald Jones has honored his verbal commitment and signed with The University of Tennessee. I probably shouldn't have to write too much about Jones, since you can probably infer from the fact that I just listened to a friggin' presser that was over an hour (5 of Jones' teammates also signed, and everyone from the booster club president to this pre-school teacher wanted to talk) that he's an especially talented player. I heard in the past hour that he was going to Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but those rumors were false. He is all Vol.

Gerald Jones

Wide Receiver
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
6'0", 185 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 4 Stars; #5 Athlete in the Nation; #87 Player in America

Jones verbally committed to the Vols back in November, but Tennessee has had to work hard to keep him in the fold. Of particular note, Florida Coach Urban Meyer guaranteed a guy I know in Florida that Jones would be a Gator as recently as December. Particularly troubling for the Vols coaching staff were concerns that Jones may have committed because of the bond formed with fellow Oklahoma native Robert Meachem when Meachem decided to move on to the NFL. However, Jones stayed true to his word, and now Tennessee has an incredible playmaker that the Vols could choose to use like Florida uses Percy Harvin (WR, RB, Kick Returner). Jones can do it all. Although it may be unprecidented at a school the caliber of Tennessee, it is possible that Jones, Vinson, and O'Neal - all newcomers to the program - could be your starting receiving corps come September.

A little more to come...

2:44 P.M.

In the midst of all of the Gerald Jones excitement, the LOI for Rufus Williams arrived, effectively completing Tennessee's class (barring Marquis Maze surprising everyone and choosing the Vols over Bama).

Rufus Williams

Weakside Defensive End
Titusville, Florida
6'3", 225 lbs.
Rivals Ranking: 3 Stars; #21 Weakside DE in the Nation

Williams is a guy who might get overlooked amongst the parade of stars that UT has put together in this class, but he shouldn't be. His film shows him to be a versatile athlete who could be used in a variety of ways. It appears that he will start at defensive end, where he projects as a speed rusher (think Constantine Ritzman). As per norm, any player out of Florida has to be taken seriously due to the high level of competition in the high schools in the Sunshine State, and that applies to Williams, too. With Martin and potentially Sykes and Hall down the road after prep school, this has the makings of a solid DE class for the Vols.

With 32 signees (7 over the one-year limit, but not a concern given last year's small class and a few signees heading off to prep school), that finishes the Class of 2007 for Tennessee. Depending on who you listen to and how they calculate their rankings, Tennessee has between the 2nd and 4th best class in the country. (Florida has the consensus #1 class in the country,and I'm not one to argue with that.)

Speed-wise, it is the fastest class in the nation, and it may be the best class that Coach Fulmer has ever brought to Knoxville. Given the WRs and DBs that Fulmer is bringing in this year, one would expect linemen to be the focus of next year's class.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and let's hope this recruiting success translates to fantastic results on the field for the next 4 years!


Great job live blogging. Did you go anywhere special for this event?
Seiklaz -

No, just my home office. That's my normal MO. However, a bunch of us spent Signing Day several years back in one of the PC labs in the College of Law. Now THAT was fun!


Fantastic job! The folks at the office were in my office all day "Who'd we get? Did we lose him? How's WR?" You da man!

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