Lane Kiffin: Signing Day for UT
Signing Day 2009 videos
- Signing Day for UT
- The importance of the campus visit
- Why no quarterback?
- The future of Tennessee recruiting
- Signing Day for UT
- The offensive line
- Recruiting in Memphis and taking two from Florida
- Monte Kiffin's high energy recruiting style
- Attracting recruits (and their parents)
Dave Hooker analysis
Dave Hooker explains the significance of the following recruits who signed with UT Tuesday:
- Marlon Walls signs with UT
- Marsalis Teague signs with UT
- Nu'Keese Richardson signs with UT
- Darren Myles Jr. signs with UT
- Nigel Mitchell-Thornton signs with the Vols
- Eric Gordon signs with the Vols
- James Green signs with the Vols
- Mike Edwards signs with the Vols
- Jerod Askew signs with the Vols
- Arthur Jeffrey Jr. signs with the Vols
- Zach Rogers signs with the Vols
- Nyshier Oliver signs with the Vols
- Kevin Revis signs with the Vols
- JerQuari Schofield signs with the Vols
It's been the calling card for Tennessee football for months. National Signing Day was no different.
The Vols stumbled off to an inauspicious start before their fax machines were even warm on Wednesday. They then salvaged the day with 15 signees, including some highly touted surprises.
When added to UT's four mid-term enrollees, the Vols landed 19 players, good for 16th-best in the nation and sixth-best in the SEC by ESPN, and 22nd-best in the nation and 10th-best in the SEC by Rivals.com and Scout. com.
UT secured enough signing-day surprises - safety Darren Myles Jr., athlete Marsalis Teague and receiver Nu'Keese Richardson - to feel good about its first recruiting class under coach Lane Kiffin.
The most prominent disappointment of signing day came late in the afternoon when Memphis receiver Marlon Brown signed with Georgia over UT, followed by wideout Je'Ron Stokes' decision to sign with Michigan.
Stokes was UT's first commitment of the 2009 class when he pledged to play for the Vols last April
Ups and downs. Remember that drama thing.
"Understand, this class is far below the standards that we have here," Kiffin said. "From the time frame that we had, we're excited."
Kiffin maintained that he was unwilling to take unworthy prospects.
"Last thing we wanted to do was take some guys, lower our standards and take guys that eventually get beat out a year from now when we get a full class of great players that we'll have for the future," Kiffin said. "Let's not take guys just to make the class look better. Let's not take guys just to get a better ranking.
"We didn't do that."
Recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron said the risks of reaching for a less talented prospect outweigh the risks of holding onto his scholarship for next year.
"If you take a chance on a young man and he can't play, you have him for five years," Orgeron said. "I would rather not take a chance and get a guy that can play."
UT's signing-day surprises came at the expense of other SEC schools.
Myles was primarily considering LSU and Alabama before an official visit to UT on Jan. 23 made him rethink his options.
"I had a dream I was in orange," said the 6-foot-1, 175-pound safety from Carver High School in Atlanta. "God sent that to me so I went with it."
Monte Kiffin helped deliver the divine message. Myles was the first prospect Kiffin called when he accepted the defensive coordinator position on his son's staff. UT's staff did the rest.
"A month ago we were not in his top five," Lane Kiffin said of Myles. "He was not going to visit us. Our coaches just kept going after him and kept competing.
"I'm excited about us competing. That's what we try to teach our players. I don't know what better example we could have for our fans and players than the way we competed."
It seemed UT was against unbeatable odds for the 5-9, 150-pound Richardson. After all, the diminutive speedster was from Florida's backyard and had been committed to the Gators for weeks.
"Pahokee kids don't come to Tennessee," Kiffin said. "Pahokee kids - that Florida wants - go to Florida. That's happened for a long time."
Kiffin and Orgeron cited running backs/special teams coach Eddie Gran as the driving force to land Richardson.
"This was a tremendous job by Eddie Gran," Orgeron said. "One of the best players in America didn't visit anywhere else. We hire Eddie Gran and within several days, he's visiting us.
"You can only see where we're going to be very powerful in the state of Florida."
Still, securing Richardson was close - so close that he considered postponing his press conference.
"I wanted to move it back," Richardson said. "I wanted to wait. But I felt if I did too much thinking it would make it harder on me."
Obviously UT's new staff isn't afraid to take on its SEC rivals months before the season even begins. UT took two committed prospects from Florida and repeatedly faced off against other SEC rivals for the top prospects in the region.
"In order to beat the national champ on the field, you have to beat the national champ in recruiting," Orgeron said. "We beat them twice."
Said Kiffin, "We're just getting started. This is just a little bit of a taste . . . There's already been a message sent and I think there are going to be bigger ones sent soon."
Orgeron, Kiffin said, was the man most responsible for landing Teague.
"Marsalis was gone (to Florida)," Kiffin said. "It's a different story today."
The story turned when UT hired Orgeron, an avid recruiter who doesn't take "No" for an answer.
"I was a lineman," UT's defensive line coach said. "I got told 'No' all the time. I wasn't the quarterback. I have a lot of experience that way.
"'No' doesn't mean anything nowadays. A commitment doesn't mean anything nowadays. Just the fax. When you see that name come across the paper, that's what matters."
More than time hamstrung Kiffin's staff, which has had less than a month on the job. UT also was limited by what it could showcase on an official visit. Neyland Stadium was empty. Football games couldn't be used as a backdrop.
Instead, Kiffin used UT basketball and Thompson-Boling Arena.
"Don't think that Nu'Keese didn't have that in his mind," Kiffin said. "If 22,000 people can be this loud and this supportive, what do 105,000 look like?
"I really thank our fans for their support and (basketball coach) Bruce (Pearl) for putting together such a great game plan the other night," Kiffin said, alluding to UT's win over Florida last Saturday. "When you're winning, it always helps.
"And whoever painted the rock, 'Nu'Keese for Heisman', that helps, too."
UT's class was heavy on speed and light on linemen. The Vols signed 12 defensive players and only two offensive linemen.
Kiffin said much of that was due to the prospects UT's former staff had committed and working to secure the best prospects - not best positions - available.
Kiffin compared recruiting to UT after a 5-7 season to recruiting to Southern California following a 6-6 season in 2001.
"It was really hard then and it was really hard this year," Kiffin said. "When we get to that point where we're winning national championships and playing for national championships, it will be a lot easier."
With pending announcements from Louisiana cornerback Janzen Jackson and Oklahoma tailback David Oku, both Kiffin and Orgeron hinted that more signees could be afoot.
"I don't think this class is over," Kiffin said. "I think you've got another surprise coming here real quick."