UT football head coach, Lane Kiffin, speaks with the press regarding college signing day. Watch »
A rocky start to National Signing Day 2009 didn’t define the day for those on Rocky Top.
Tennessee picked up highly rated defensive backs Darren Myles Jr. and Marsalous Teague and South Florida speedster Nu’Keese Richardson to cap a hectic day of highs and lows Wednesday. In the end, UT finished with a signing class of 19.
"I thought it was very important for us to set the foundation from which we were going to compete in recruiting," said new UT coach Lane Kiffin in addressing the media Wednesday. "We have already started junior recruiting and our goal is to have one of the top classes in the nation next year."
The lows took the early lead before national letters of intent could even be signed. News broke early that tailback David Oku from Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Okla., was no longer committed to Tennessee.
Hours later, offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips of Olive Branch (Miss.) High confirmed he wasn’t living up to his commitment and signed with Florida State.
UT also missed out on one of the long shots on its board when receiver Alshon Jeffrey from Calhoun County High in St. Matthews, S.C., signed with South Carolina. A one-time Southern California commitment, Jeffrey took an official visit to Knoxville in January.
Despite the bad news, UT laid a solid foundation for the day as the sun was still rising in East Tennessee. The Vols received early morning signatures from the following:
+ OL JerQuari Schofield from South Aiken (S.C.) High.
+ C Kevin Revis from Rhea County.
+ DB Nyshier Oliver from Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J.
+ LB Nigel Mitchell-Thornton from Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga.
+ DT Arthur Jeffrey from Booker High in Sarasota, Fla.
+ LB Jerod Askew from Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Va.
As noon drew near, UT landed a delayed signature from commitment Mike Edwards, the defensive back from Glenville Academic Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. Edwards was scheduled to sign his letter of intent earlier in the day but was caught up in a snowstorm on the way to school.
In the meantime, UT secured the signature of receiver James Green from Leon High in Tallahassee, Fla.
UT received a bit of bad news, albeit expected, when receiver Patrick Patterson from Noxubee County High School in Macon, Miss., signed with Ole Miss and defensive tackle Pearlie Graves from East Central High School in Tulsa, Okla., signed with Texas Tech.
Both took official visits to UT in January but neither were considered to be leaning towards signing with UT.
Then came the first positive surprise of the day when Myles signed with UT. The standout from Carver High in Atlanta signed with UT over Alabama and LSU among others.
Myles, one of the top safeties in the nation and one of the prospects in the southeast, was the first prospect that UT defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin called when he was hired at UT.
Two UT long shots went by the boards when linebacker Tana Patrick signed with Alabama and tailback Kendrick Hardy signed with Southern Miss before noon.
Patrick, a linebacker from North Jackson High in Stevenson, Ala., was a surprise visitor to UT in January. Hardy considered UT but it is unclear just how much UT coveted him.
Then game a double shot of positive, in-state news just before noon when linebacker Greg King from Memphis Melrose and athlete Marsalis Teague from Henry County signed with UT.
Neither announcement was too surprising. King raved about his January official visit to Knoxville and seemed solid to UT despite a late run by Auburn.
The News Sentinel reported last month that Teague was leaning towards UT or Alabama despite a long-standing commitment to Florida. Distance from home was Teague’s main concern, a source said.
The Vols received a boost to their 2010 class when news broke that junior defensive end Jacques Smith committed to UT. The Ooltewah star is likely the top prospect in the state and is expected to be one of the elite prospects in the nation.
The 2009 class again took center stage when UT secured Eric Gordon’s signature during the lunch hour. The cornerback from Hillsboro High School was the first commitment under coach Lane Kiffin, who was hired in late November.
The Vols missed out on a long shot shortly thereafter when tailback Eddie Lacy from Dutchtown High School in Geismar, La., signed with Alabama.
Another Alabama signing opened the door for linebacker Robert Nelson from Stone Mountain, Ga. When Patrick signed with the Crimson Tide, that meant UT had room to take another linebacker, and did so with Nelson.
The ultimate surprise of the day for UT came when Richardson put his name on UT’s dotted line. The receiver from Pahokee, Fla., wasn’t even sure he’d take an official visit to UT before finally doing so last weekend. Richardson had been committed to Florida since October.
The news was more predictable when receiver Kendall Kelly from Gadsden (Ala.) City High chose Alabama over UT.
Then came the news that so many UT fans had been waiting for – and subsequently dreaded.
Receiver Marlon Brown from Harding Academy in Memphis chose Georgia over UT just before 4 p.m.
It got worse when another receiver, Je’Ron Stokes, signed with Michigan. The star prospect from Northeast High School in Philadelphia who was UT’s first commitment for the 2009 class never seemed completely comfortable with UT’s new coaching staff.