Surprises and prizes: Signing class fits Kiffin's plan

Lane Kiffin: Signing Day for UT

Melrose High School linebacker Greg King (center) signed with the University of Tennessee on Wednesday, Feb. 4. He is pictured with his family.

Photo by Tom McDaniel Jr./The Commercial Appea

Melrose High School linebacker Greg King (center) signed with the University of Tennessee on Wednesday, Feb. 4. He is pictured with his family.

Drama.

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."

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Comments » 181

BillsBrother writes:

All things considered, it was a good day for the Vols!

pastorlee#372395 writes:

I like the class, but I hate these pictures of Dave Hooker. Man, they give me the creeps.

HardCoreVol writes:

Give us one more of those surprises Coach Kiff!

Vol_from_birth writes:

im guessing kiffin thinks were gonna get jackson?

HardCoreVol writes:

in response to Vol_from_birth:

im guessing kiffin thinks were gonna get jackson?

Or Oku... Either would be a nice pick-up.

teedub writes:

Awesome!! I can't wait to see some of these young guys on the field. Anyone know who the referenced surprise might be????

vtvol#210290 writes:

The defense that comes out of this class is going to be nasty as early as next year and dominat by 2010. It was small but still a nice haul.

eefor10c writes:

From 5th to 22nd

teedub writes:

Kudos to the folks that painted the rock for Nu'Keese

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Many are complaining about signing too many Db's and LB's. It's gonna take several allstar DB's and LB's to stop Tebow, Cox and the other top qb's in the league next year. We need a couple Eric Berry's and a new and improved Morley to have a chance at stopping Tebow.

bigorangefan79 writes:

I only count 18. Am I missing something?

Ironcity writes:

I like the class. Considering we had three coaches until a couple of weeks ago its a great class. I think Stokes would have come if he had not taken his official visit already. The only thing were missing is Offensive Linemen. We better land some stud O linemen next year or it could be big trouble for whoever our QB is in 2010 and 2011.

oimo2005#352417 writes:

Kudos to whoever painted the Rock and thanks to Teague and Richardson for helping us stick it to poor lil Urban.

KingVol writes:

when is jackson suppose to announce?

smashmouth98 writes:

I can't wait to see who the surprise is!!! Orange Swarm, reel them in baby.

vols4ever93 writes:

Mabey its Orson Charels?

MrBamSeydu writes:

Chris Low at ESPN is reporting Janzen Jackson to UT.

Presser at 10 a.m. in the morning.

jcrewvol writes:

I said it's great to be.......

ICARRIEDGOALPOST writes:

in response to Vol_from_birth:

im guessing kiffin thinks were gonna get jackson?

i agree. the way kiffin said "real soon" makes me think its jackson since he is makin his decision tomorrow. i hope it is anyway.

senracjr writes:

Anyone know whats the lowdown on these players?
4* Marcus Hall [OT - Cleveland, OH]
4* Brandon Moore [OL - Montgomery, AL]
4* D.T. Shackelford [DT - Decatur, AL]
4* Quinton Washington [OL - St. Stephen, SC]
4* Peter White [OL - Washington, DC]

vols4ever93 writes:

Butch is back got news for you you're about to get cyber pimp slaped like I told AreYouKiffinMe earlier get possitive or be ware becuse my pimp hand is strong and even if Phill could have signed a top 2 class what happened to the one that we had two years ago. He was fired becuse he brought in an incompatent moron as his offensive corrdinator. I think Kiff is the futuer and is commeted to this program, despite what some of you say, and he will have a top 3 class next year bet on it! Good night to the rest of yall and Go Vols!!!!

P.S. not good night to ARE YOU KIFFIN ME and BUTCH IS BACK

vols4ever93 writes:

More than likely misspelled most of my words but you catch my drift

lburgvol writes:

I hope Eric Berry put's a slobberknocker on Marlon...

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

I believe that ButchIsBack is actually Phil Fulmer and Areyoukiffinme is actually Vicki Fulmer....

Silent commits....#2 class....HILARIOUS AND UNTRUE!

I still like Coach Fulmer and appreciate everything he did, but it was time for him to go. Either support the current staff or go be a Gator fan...

MidTennVol writes:

Okay, so the "surprise" has to be Jackson because Oku has been committed since 1857.

1vol writes:

Hall to OSU.The Monte "2" is a smaller faster D.

bigorangejeffy writes:

in response to senracjr:

Anyone know whats the lowdown on these players?
4* Marcus Hall [OT - Cleveland, OH]
4* Brandon Moore [OL - Montgomery, AL]
4* D.T. Shackelford [DT - Decatur, AL]
4* Quinton Washington [OL - St. Stephen, SC]
4* Peter White [OL - Washington, DC]

hall - ohio state
moore - bama
shackleford - ole miss
washington - michigan
white- maryland

bluetick writes:

in response to ButchIsBack:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

There have been years of top 5 to top 10 classes previously. So? What has it done? Go smoke a pole idiot.

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

"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.

****I have said it b4 on here and I will say it again the rankings don't mean anything as long as you are in the top 20!!!!!

Its not how many you sign its how good they are.

What I am telling you is this...You think if perhaps LSU had a #5 ranking and we were to have a #5 ranking "With our group of coaches" which do you think would be the higher quality class?

Let me put it to you another way what if a school had signed 35 2 and 3 star players? There ranking would be high! But would they be worth a flip?
Would you then take our #16 record over theres even though "they were ranked higher"?

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

in response to ButchIsBack:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I guess the circus guy was right about "you" then!!!!

You are a female "Butch" right?

God why am I even talking to you??????????????????????
You scary girl!!!!!

YIKES!!!!!

jturne44 writes:

Marlon Brown's grandmother (in the name of the lord) has no idea about college football hahah....senile old woman has something against her grandson going to a place where young people have a good time whilst learning and growing....oh my! I bet NOBODY F****** drinks at GEORGIA! good god old woman get a clue send him overseas or to a division 3 private school if you want to protect his a** that much...both of my my mom mom's told me straight up to learn and have a good time cuz they were never able to attend college...good god the entire volnation saw him smoozing on girls at a party while on his visit, while he has a girlfriend hahaha memphis old folk kill me...in the words of my hawkins county uncle, "Son, the city or town of memphis is another country. Who knows how it is a part of Tennessee...bunch of conservative white folk and gangster black folk."

There you go...Marlon Brown in a nutshell...slave to his family...what a shame boys and girls...I thought the U.S. contained individuals...

Joshua Christian Turner

Count_Me_In writes:

Thirty-sixth!

tuscavol writes:

in response to jturne44:

Marlon Brown's grandmother (in the name of the lord) has no idea about college football hahah....senile old woman has something against her grandson going to a place where young people have a good time whilst learning and growing....oh my! I bet NOBODY F****** drinks at GEORGIA! good god old woman get a clue send him overseas or to a division 3 private school if you want to protect his a** that much...both of my my mom mom's told me straight up to learn and have a good time cuz they were never able to attend college...good god the entire volnation saw him smoozing on girls at a party while on his visit, while he has a girlfriend hahaha memphis old folk kill me...in the words of my hawkins county uncle, "Son, the city or town of memphis is another country. Who knows how it is a part of Tennessee...bunch of conservative white folk and gangster black folk."

There you go...Marlon Brown in a nutshell...slave to his family...what a shame boys and girls...I thought the U.S. contained individuals...

Joshua Christian Turner

I'm going to be as nice as I can with my reply to your comments. First of all, it's nice to see a young man who values the opinions of his elders. This same individual citizen of the United States exorcised his right to choose. I too am disappointed in his decision, but it was his and I have to respect that. I even admire his honesty in giving his reason for not coming to UT. How dare you trash a grandmother for simply wanting what she feels is best for her grandson. Just like you had a right to post your opinion, Marlon Brown has a right to make choices in his life. He never said he was coming to UT. Others did mislead the coaching staff and fans. I would understand it more if you trashed them, even though you would still be wrong, your position would at least be justified. That was very low class of you. I would like to think my fellow VOL fans are better than this. We need to focus on, and support the ones that did sign with UT because they are the real future of UT football.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

In response to Tuscavol:

"I'm going to be as nice as I can with my reply to your comments. First of all, it's nice to see a young man who values the opinions of his elders. This same individual citizen of the United States exorcised his right to choose. I too am disappointed in his decision, but it was his and I have to respect that. I even admire his honesty in giving his reason for not coming to UT. How dare you trash a grandmother for simply wanting what she feels is best for her grandson. Just like you had a right to post your opinion, Marlon Brown has a right to make choices in his life. He never said he was coming to UT. Others did mislead the coaching staff and fans. I would understand it more if you trashed them, even though you would still be wrong, your position would at least be justified. That was very low class of you. I would like to think my fellow VOL fans are better than this. We need to focus on, and support the ones that did sign with UT because they are the real future of UT football."

I couldn't have said it better myself. And to think jturne44's middle name is "Christian".

Go VOLS!!!

gnm53108 writes:

D@mn good class.

I like how Coach Kiffin is being selective and all but I think he might be gamblin a bit.We all know,even with the best of classes,there are usually a couple of busts.Young men can have all kinds of obstactles in college.There's girls,homesickness,grades,girls,injury,drugs,girls,booze,he11 even life.Did I mention college girls?

I really like the quality of these young men and am glad as he11 to have em all wearing Orange.Would've like to have a few more,just to be on the safe side.

BuckheadVol1 writes:

in response to eefor10c:

From 5th to 22nd

Please keep in mind that we were 5th early in the process. Things change in that amount of time. If you had read the article, there were obviouse players who did not fit or would have been a wasted scholly in the future. I have no problem with what Kiffn did. We would have easily had a better number if we had kept players like Boyd. This staff did a wonderful job considering the time they had.

With that said, I am proud of this class. These kids want to be here and will contribute early and often.

Get over it!

vut56#231073 writes:

Have not read all the posts, but I don't quite get Kiffin's statement, "Understand that this class is far below our standards here...." then, goes on to say he did not want to take on "unworthy prospects." Why did we sign anyone, if the whole class is "below our standards"? Who are these 19 masked men? Fulmer's committments?

This is not a rip on who they have signed; obviously they have been burning the midnight oil. Just do not understand the description(s) of this group.

BuckheadVol1 writes:

in response to Orange_Man:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I can agree with some of your points. I only said I was proud of the class. I am not thrilled as I would have liked to have signed Brown too. Thigpen...I agree. I believe we will get 1 possibly 2 more today with the hold outs. Keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

As for DTs, we took 2. Now if they don't end up playing DT, that is a different story.

It is nice to read the explanation behind your thoughts rather than someone else stating a dumbarse one liner comment.

shaggymoe writes:

in response to Orange_Man:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The reasons that you stated are the reasons that they are the coaches and you are not. We are used to getting good recruiting classes and our teams were still only average. Give these guys a chance to coach the talent that they want. Next year at this time whining would be exceptable, but not this year with the lack of time that they had to deal with.

BuckheadVol1 writes:

in response to Orange_Man:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Montori Hughes
Defensive Tackle, 6-5, 275

This is the other listed in one of the previous articles from KNS. Not familiar with this guy but I lke his size.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to BuckheadVol1:

I can agree with some of your points. I only said I was proud of the class. I am not thrilled as I would have liked to have signed Brown too. Thigpen...I agree. I believe we will get 1 possibly 2 more today with the hold outs. Keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

As for DTs, we took 2. Now if they don't end up playing DT, that is a different story.

It is nice to read the explanation behind your thoughts rather than someone else stating a dumbarse one liner comment.

Would've liked a couple more numbers myself.Especially on the lines.

One liners?
I hope you're not jumping ole TJ.

rusty_shackleford writes:

Nice class, now coach 'em up.

ESPN's rankings have 10 SEC schools in the top 25. LSU 1, Alabubba 2, FLA 5, UGA 6, gamecocks 12, Vols 15, Hogs 20, Ole Miss 22, MSU 23, Auburn 25.

ACC had 5 schools, Big 10(11) had 4.

shaggymoe writes:

in response to shaggymoe:

The reasons that you stated are the reasons that they are the coaches and you are not. We are used to getting good recruiting classes and our teams were still only average. Give these guys a chance to coach the talent that they want. Next year at this time whining would be exceptable, but not this year with the lack of time that they had to deal with.

Acceptable ,still early ,need coffee

BuckheadVol1 writes:

in response to gnm53108:

Would've liked a couple more numbers myself.Especially on the lines.

One liners?
I hope you're not jumping ole TJ.

LOL, No, not jumping on Tommy Jack. I actually enjoy his. Just the one that I was responding to in an earler post.

BuckheadVol1 writes:

Orangeman - Hughes is already enrolled.

BuckheadVol1 writes:

in response to Orange_Man:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That is all I have but am sure that is the case.

Anyone else have the skinny on Hughes?

Vol-in-GA writes:

I am optomistic with this class as I am with Kiffin in general and the future of Vol football. However, I did have to laugh with the KNS header that included "...tenth best in the SEC." Umm, 10th out of 12, Whew Hoo?!?

volfan_stuck_in_jersey writes:

in response to Orange_Man:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Exactly, he de-comitted.

OKU will wear Orange!

I just dont know if it will be Tennessee orange or Syracuse orange.

It seems like Oku is afraid of challenge. He wants to walk in and be the new shining back. Can't really fault the guy for that because we would all want to play but this guy needs to remember that he was a nationally top ranked back for a reason....

With that being said, I dont think he goes to Auburn because they signed a lot of backs in this class.

rusty_shackleford writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Did K-Y sign ANYONE this year? Haven't heard a word about their recruiting class. Probably a typical class; lots of mullets, Trans Ams and one good set of teeth combined.

txvolsfan writes:

in response to ButchIsBack:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not unless Phil Fulmer is Brown's grandmother!!!

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