Lane Kiffin tried Wednesday to explain some of the recruiting mess left in his wake from his sudden departure from Tennessee.
Kiffin, who was named coach at Southern California late Tuesday, was under fire following reports that former UT recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron had contact with UT's mid-term enrollees Tuesday night and informed them that they could still opt out of their commitment and enroll at USC.
"I was told of that as a possibility last night by a couple of our players that were upset in the team room," Kiffin said. "I assured them that I had nothing to do with that.
"I did call Ed. He told me that he did have some parents call him and say 'What would the interest be there (at USC) and would you call my son?' The timing of it was not very good because I walked into the team meeting right after that happened, I guess."
UT had 22 commitments and were ranked in the top 10 by the major recruiting services on Tuesday. On Wednesday night, 18 were still on board with eight enrolled.
Orgeron's newfound recruiting efforts weren't limited to returning phone calls.
According to a source within UT's football department, Orgeron called to have some of his UT recruiting information sent to him and became irate when he was denied by UT's support staff.
"Nothing surprises me anymore," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said when asked of coaches re-recruiting prospects to other schools. "I still don't think that's the right thing to do."
Kiffin maintained that UT's prospects were off limits - to a point.
"Here's where I am on that," Kiffin said. "I've told Mike this. I'm not going to call any recruits that are committed to Tennessee. If a recruit and their family decide they don't want to go to Tennessee and they make that public, then I'm going to do that (recruit them) like anybody would. But I will not actively recruit any players that are coming here until they reach out to us.
"We won't even recruit a lot of the same kids anyway."
That apparently isn't the case with Brandon Willis, the defensive lineman from James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., who committed to UT last Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Willis was on his way to Knoxville to enroll Tuesday when Orgeron reportedly called him and offered him a scholarship to USC.
"You can't just follow guys like that," Willis' father, Gary Willis, told The New York Times. "That's not what I'm teaching my son.
". . . To sit down and tell people stuff and then turn around and do what you do, I don't like the way it was done, but I can't control it."
Despite his frustration, Brandon Willis could be considered one of the lucky ones. Since he wasn't on campus and enrolled as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Willis isn't considered a student-athlete at UT and therefore can enroll at any school he'd like, according to Hamilton. Willis has since said he'll enroll at North Carolina.
UT's other mid-term enrollees don't have that freedom. The eight mid-term students on campus would have to sit out a year if they transferred. Although they can appeal that ruling to the NCAA, Hamilton said he has no intention of releasing the eight to freely play elsewhere.
UT's commitments have plenty of freedom since they have yet to sign a national letter of intent, which most will do on National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
Responses were mixed among the commitments reached by the News Sentinel.
"We bought into him and I made the biggest mistake I ever made," said Glen Fulton, the father of UT commitment Zach Fulton of Homewood-Flossmoor High in Flossmoor, Ill. "I bought into the man instead of buying into the university. Always buy into the university instead buying into the man. The university is going to be there."
The offensive lineman turned down other Big Ten schools to commit to UT in June and declined to even visit other schools.
"Zach's very upset," Glen Fulton said. "We don't know what to do. We took one official visit and gave our commitment to them all along. I asked (Kiffin) in his office if he was going anywhere else. He said he's not going anywhere. That's one reason I told Zach not to take any official visits. Now we have three weeks to figure out what to do."
Other commitments have been less patient. Linebacker Michael Taylor of Atlanta Westlake High decommitted from UT and pledged to Florida, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Taylor was named the MVP of the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando earlier this month.
Henry County (Ga.) High wide receiver Markeith Ambles, another U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is considering following Kiffin to Southern Cal.
"I don't know what to say," Ambles told the newspaper. "I haven't talked to Coach Kiffin. I don't know. I can't really say anything. I want to talk to Coach Kiffin."
Defensive end J.C. Copeland from Troup High in LaGrange, Ga., said he is headed to UT no matter what.
"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "I'm going to Tennessee as long as the offer is still on the table."
Athlete Marcques Dixon from Southwest Dekalb High in Decatur, Ga., said he hasn't been able to contact UT's former coaches. He said he still plans to visit Miami and Southern Miss this month.
Athlete Delvin Jones from Miami (Fla.) Palmetto High and defensive tackle Calvin Smith from Hialeah (Fla.) High have reportedly pulled their commitments from UT.