Tennessee's 2010 recruiting class won't rank as its best. But it might be remembered as UT's most reassuring class.
The program has lost at least six games in three of the last five seasons and has had three different head coaches in 15 months. Yet it hasn't lost its allure to recruits from all over the country.
Some of Wednesday's signees first imagined themselves as Vols when Phillip Fulmer was the longtime head coach. Others were drawn to UT during Lane Kiffin's drive-by. The final additions to what should be no worse than a consensus top-15 class entrusted their football future to new coach Derek Dooley.
The class was three head coaches in the making. Consider all the assistants that factored into it. And has any program in the country had as many strength and conditioning coaches in the last 15 months?
Never mind who the head coach is or whether the support staff is manned by temps. UT remains a desirable program.
That has to be reassuring to one of the most passionate fan bases in the country.
I'm not suggesting that a 100,000-seat stadium, state-of-the art facilities and great tradition right all wrongs. But they combine for a wonderfully large safety net.
This class is a reminder of that. So is last year's class.
UT assembled its 2009 class while Kiffin was still putting together his coaching staff. With even less time and staff, Dooley also has proved to be a competent closer while finishing what Kiffin started.
If you had a composite ranking of the last two classes, UT probably would be in the top 10 despite all of its disadvantages.
Of course, there's another side to the story. While UT is scrambling its way into the vicinity of recruiting's top 10, it's not gaining any ground on its most formidable competition.
Florida, Alabama and LSU from the SEC all have landed No. 1-ranked recruiting classes in the last few years. They also have combined to win the last four national championships.
Look what Florida's Urban Meyer pulled off. He announced his retirement, changed his mind the next day, amended his retirement to a leave of absence, raised questions about his health, and then landed what is being touted as one of the all-time great recruiting hauls.
How do you compete with that?
You certainly can't do it on recruiting alone. So Dooley and his assistants better be able to coach.
Kiffin's staff didn't just make a recruiting splash. They developed what veteran talent was available. For example, quarterback Jonathan Compton, running back Montario Hardesty and defensive tackle Dan Williams all exceeded expectations as seniors.
The retention of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and linebackers coach Lance Thompson is a plus for Dooley. Although his new hires don't have the name recognition of a Monte Kiffin or an Ed Orgeron, they might form a more cohesive team.
You will have to wait and see about that. You also will need years to determine if this recruiting class is as good as billed.
But the class already has given you something. It has reminded you that although UT's program might sag, it won't collapse.
And in times of turmoil, that has to be reassuring.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.