DESTIN, Fla. - Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin already has signed a top-10 recruiting class, but he still feels he's playing catch-up.
"The start has been really good," he said at the SEC spring meetings. "But we're still behind on the class after that (2010).
"When you really get a recruiting machine going, you're into the ninth and 10th graders, because you know your (recruiting) area so well."
And if that ninth-grader is good enough, he doesn't mind offering him a scholarship.
When Kiffin was recruiting Orange County for Southern California, he offered high school freshman quarterback Matt Barkley a scholarship.
Although sophomore Aaron Corp had the edge after spring practice, Barkley is still in the running for USC's starting quarterback job as a true freshman.
New Outlook?: Nobody doubts the ability of Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy, who has 18.5 sacks the last two seasons. His attitude is another matter.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has been pleased with how Hardy responded during off-season conditioning.
"He made every 5:30 (workout) even though he couldn't run (because of a leg injury)," Nutt said. "That was a huge sign from him, because he had never done that before.
"Of course, it doesn't hurt to see Michael Oher and Peria Jerry driving different cars now. That was a real motivator."
Hardy's former teammates were both first-round picks in the recent NFL draft.
Hybrid Freshman: Georgia coach Mark Richt isn't sure what position Orson Charles will play, but he believes he could have an impact as a true freshman.
Charles, who was recruited by UT, is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound receiver who caught 75 passes as a high school senior.
"He certainly has great receiving skills whether he's playing tight end or receiver," Richt said. "I think he will get an opportunity to show what he can do."
What A Spread: Auburn coach Gene Chizik doesn't doubt that the SEC is the best conference in the country, but the defensive coach inside him won't miss having to face Big 12 offenses.
"If you go to the Big 12, you see offenses you may only see one time a year," said the former Iowa State head coach who has been a defensive coordinator in both conferences. "They have six or eight versions of the spread (offense) in the Big 12, and they're all different.
"There are offenses you will see once and never see anybody else in the league doing it. And some, you won't see anybody else in the country doing it."
"I still feel the SEC has the best players in the country, but the Big 12 has made their push."
Future Star?: South Carolina always seems to have a future NFL player in its secondary. If you listen to Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore has that kind of potential.
At booster club gatherings this spring, Spurrier said Gilmore was one of the best players ever to sign at South Carolina.
Gilmore, who enrolled at South Carolina in January, won a starting job the first week of spring practice. Spurrier is as excited about Gilmore's work ethic and attitude as his talent.
Spurrier said he also could use Gilmore as a running quarterback this fall.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284.