Until now, the Tennessee-California connection had been highlighted by the relocation of a couple of families.
First, in the early 1960s, the Clampett clan struck oil in a Tennessee swamp and moved en masse to Beverly Hills. The rest is television history.
Then, at the end of the 20th century, the Clausen clan of Southern California headed eastward one quarterback at a time. Casey Clausen was Tennessee's starting quarterback from 2000 through 2003. A year later, his brother, Rick, helped lead the Vols to the SEC championship game.
There are a couple of surprising facts about the latest potential Tennessee-California connection: (1) The California quarterback in question is Jesse Scroggins, not Jesse Clausen; (2) The competition for his signature consists of Southern California, Florida and UT.
USC and Florida each has won a pair of national championships this decade. UT has had two losing seasons in the last four years and hasn't won so much as a conference championship since 1998.
Such history suggests that UT fans shouldn't be devastated if Scroggins chooses USC or even Florida over the Vols. Instead, they should take heart from Scroggins' consideration.
With two national championships in the last three years, Florida is the hottest program in the country. With seven consecutive seasons of 11 or more wins, USC is the most dominant program of the decade.
Yet here's UT, coming off a 5-7 season and a coaching change, holding its own with the powers that be. That's a testament to the program's tradition and the fast work of first-year coach Lane Kiffin and his staff. Scroggins' interest in UT provides compelling evidence that the Vols eventually will sign a quality quarterback - though perhaps not as soon as they would like.
Quarterback Chase Rettig's decision to commit to Boston College on Monday was another quarterbacking setback for the Vols, but it doesn't change my opinion. If UT's new staff could sign Wichita's Bryce Brown, who was regarded by many as the No. 1 high school running back in the country last season, it can sign a big-time quarterback, too.
USC's advantages are obvious in the pursuit of Scroggins. It's not only one of the top programs in the country. It's basically Scroggins' hometown team. Moreoever, there's the quarterback track record under coach Pete Carroll to consider.
When Carroll offers a scholarship to a quarterback, an NFL scout is usually the next guy in line. A quarterback seemingly can prepare himself for the NFL by inhaling the air at a USC practice (see Matt Cassel for details).
UT's advantage: What quarterback wants to sit on the bench?
Mitch Mustain can address that. He was good enough to start at quarterback for Arkansas as a true freshman in 2006. But after transferring to USC, he will begin this season as a third-stringer behind sophomore Aaron Corp and true freshman Matt Barkley.
Corp is a former Parade All-American with more running ability than what you would expect from a Carroll quarterback. Barkley, who graduated early and excelled in USC's spring practice, received a scholarship offer from Kiffin - then a USC assistant coach - as a high school freshman.
That's what the quarterback competition will be like at USC. That's nothing like what the competition will be like at UT, which lacks both talent and depth at the position. Whatever quarterback UT signs in this recruiting class, he will jump to the top of the depth chart for 2010.
Scroggins surely will weigh that in making his decision. But regardless of what he decides, the California-Tennessee connection likely will become more prominent.
As a former USC offensive coordinator, Kiffin will employ the same pro-style system at UT. Also, in an era where spread offenses are becoming more and more prevalent, the Trojans and Vols are bucking a trend. So, in a way - competition aside - they're in this together.
And for a 5-7 program with a first-year head coach to be competing with USC for the nation's premier pro-style quarterbacks signifies fast progress.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.