ATLANTA - Lane Kiffin doesn't stop recruiting often.
But at least when it comes to players already in the program, the Tennessee coach is able to shut down his role as pitchman and play it straight for a while.
That might cost the Vols a chance to keep a few NFL-eligible players for an extra season at times, but Kiffin won't ever try to hold anybody back - starting with junior Eric Berry. Neither announced a definitive decision during a press conference Monday, but with one expected after the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech on Thursday (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.), it seems clear where the safety is headed.
"These may be the only conversations that I don't recruit in is with these guys," Kiffin said. "It's too important for them to make the right decision. This isn't about me, it isn't about Tennessee.
"This is about Eric and Eric's family, and so I told Eric from my perspective that he's done everything that he can do. If he wants to go, this is the time to go."
In all likelihood he will, and Berry's stock could hardly be higher.
At least one projection has the versatile defender as the No. 1 player in the draft, and though Berry has repeatedly talked about his love for UT (7-5) and the coaching staff, outside factors could make it hard for him to return.
After delaying an announcement last week until after playing the Hokies (9-3), Berry again deflected most every question about his status and wouldn't address specific issues influencing his decision. But everything from family concerns to possible restructuring of the NFL pay scale seem to make this the right time for him to move on, and one way or the other he's already made up his mind.
"It's kind of made up, but right now I don't want to get into that," Berry said. "I want to focus on Virginia Tech and just deal with that right now.
"I really just wanted to make sure there was no stone unturned. I sat down with coach Kiffin and talked about it, sat down with my family, talked with some of my close teammates and friends about the whole situation. I wanted to make sure I weighed out every possible scenario and situation that could happen."
That answer won't be revealed for a couple days, but Berry's certainly not hurting for feedback and praise for him continues to roll in.
Draft experts all have him at or near the top of the board. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer identified Berry as the player the Hokies absolutely have to block.
And then his own coach pumped him up as the perfect target for NFL teams.
"Eric has played man-to-man coverage, we've blitzed him, he's played back in the middle, he's played halves, he's played down, so to be able to do all those things and then also play on our special teams as many snaps as he has, he's created a lot of draft value for himself," Kiffin said. "I think as people look at him, when you evaluate safeties a lot of times, the majority of safeties can only play one spot. They can only play free or strong because of how they're set up.
"He's very unique because he can play free, he can play strong or he can play nickel corner, so I would think he would go extremely high - whenever he leaves."
That might or might not be after the Chick-fil-A Bowl. But if Berry does decide to stay, it won't be because of a second recruitment by the Vols.