Tennessee’s recruiting is, as expected in tatters, following Lane Kiffin’s sudden departure to become the head coach at Southern California.
“We bought into him and I made the biggest mistake I ever made,” said Glen Fulton, the father of UT commitment Zach Fulton. “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.”
Offensive lineman Zach Fulton was UT’s tenth commitment, from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Homewood, Ill., when he turned down other Big Ten schools to commit to UT in June.
“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.”
Some coaching stability could sooth the transition for the Fultons.
“Zach will be there if Coach (offensive line coach James) Cregg or (offensive coordinator Jim) Chaney will be there,” Glen Fulton said. “If not we will flourish elsewhere.”
Other prospects have been less patient. Linebacker Michael Taylor of Atlanta Westlake High School decommitted from UT and is pledging to Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Taylor was the MVP of the recent Under Armour All-America game and was the first to publicly change his mind.
Several South Carolina newspapers have reported that defensive end Brandon Willis of Byrnes High School in South Carolina has once again changed his mind and will leave UT. His final destination is unclear.
Willis’ Byrnes teammate, defensive lineman Corey Miller, told upstate.com, the Spartansburg Herald-Journal’s Web site, that he is holding firm to his UT commitment.
Henry County (Ga.) wide receiver Markeith Ambles, another 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 News Sentinel. “I haven’t talked to coach Kiffin. I don’t know. I can’t really say anything. I want to talk to Coach Kiffin.”
Offensive lineman JuWuan James of North Gwinnett (Ga.) High School, a mid-term enrollee is considering not starting classes, the Journal-Constitution is also reporting.
Defensive end Jacques Smith from Ooltewah High School, UT’s first commitment for the 2010 class, is now undecided on his status with the Vols.
Smith, another mid-term enrollee, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he would talk with his mother and grandmother before making a final decision.
“This is a huge decision because it’s the next four years of my life, so I have to be smart about it,” Smith said.
By not starting classes, the six mid-term enrollees who arrived on campus this week would not have to sit out a season if they transferred to another school.
The three mid-term enrollees — quarterback Tyler Bray, receiver Matt Milton and running back/linebacker Channing Fugate — do not have the same freedom. Since they practiced with UT last month, they are tied to the NCAA’s transfer rules.
Multiple sources told the News Sentinel late Tuesday evening that former recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron had contacted some of the other six mid-termers and encouraged them not to enroll in class so they can transfer to USC without having to sit out a season.
Defensive end J.C. Copeland from Troup High School 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 School in Decatur, Ga. said he hasn’t been able to contact UT’s former coaches and that he still plans to visit Miami and Southern Miss this month, as previously planned.
National Signing Day is Feb. 3.