Derek Dooley comments on UT's signing day
Tennessee let one slip through its fingers.
The Vols still might have snagged the best group of hands in the country.
New coach Derek Dooley tried to downplay recruiting rankings and any individual projections for his hastily assembled first class, but with at least one position that combination was hard to ignore. Headlined by Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, the program formerly known as Wide Receiver U lived up to its billing, perhaps landing the best haul of targets in the nation during Wednesday's National Signing Day.
"I think every year you're always looking for game-changing, play-making offensive weapons," Dooley said. "You're looking really for every position, but certainly when it gets down there in the fourth quarter and it gets tight, usually the guys on the perimeter, or a running back, quarterback, receiver, those are the guys that go and win the game for you.
"Certainly there are two high-profile players that we were able to swing, and I'm glad they're with us. Time will tell how good they're going to be."
The expectations for them could hardly be higher based on their various rankings near the top of the 2010 class. Rogers, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, was tabbed the No. 1 prospect in Georgia. Hunter, 6-5, 180, was projected as the No. 8 overall receiver nationally by Rivals.
Along with early-enrollees Matt Milton and Ted Meline the group of receivers Dooley and former coach Lane Kiffin collected could be the envy of college football. And it could have been even better if Kiffin hadn't taken former UT commit Markeith Ambles with him to Southern California.
Even without Ambles they made out far better than anticipated when Dooley took over less than three weeks ago, and whoever emerges from what could be a four-man battle at quarterback heading into the season should have plenty of options in the passing game.
"It has me fired up," Rogers said. "It's a chance to play with other great players, and hopefully we can all come in and have an impact from Day One because I feel like if we all come in and work hard with the coaching staff and the facilities that we have, we can do it all.
"Of course talent always wants to play with talent. So, that was a big thing, I wouldn't go to a school that has nobody. The level of talent was a big thing for me."
The incoming receivers figure to raise that level at the skill positions, balancing out last year's class that was led by a couple heralded running backs, Bryce Brown and David Oku.
The quarterback job will likely be open for competition for a while, and there are some issues to be sorted out on the offensive line. But the Vols should have options and depth everywhere else, and it won't be coming from just the two new guys with the highest ratings.
"If we all knew, if we could project that well, then we wouldn't make the number of mistakes that we all make all the time as coaches," Dooley said. "I mean, it happens in the NFL. These guys have more resources and more access to information on players than anybody, and first-round choices end up being busts all the time. It's the human element. It's the hard-wiring inside that you can never project.
"Wes Welker, nobody wanted. He turned out pretty good at Texas Tech and the NFL. I mean, we're trying to get every position when we go recruiting, so there's not a guy that we go out and sign that we don't hope turns out to be an All-American or all-conference football player. Every time I think it's going to be this guy, it's always the other guy."
And if it's not the two most projections expect, the Vols will still have two more sets of hands waiting in the wings.