Adams: Character, not stars, key to Vols' recruiting

John Adams

Stars don't matter. Character does.

That's a synopsis of Tennessee's recruiting philosophy under first-year coach Derek Dooley. If you want more details, recruiting coordinator Terry Joseph Jr. can fill you in.

"As long as we've been together, I guess you can say we drink from the same water," said Joseph, who was an assistant coach under Dooley for three years at Louisiana Tech.

As familiar as the recruiting game plan might be to Dooley and Joseph, it's altogether foreign to UT fans, who have become accustomed to hanging on the words of recruiting services. And those much-publicized evaluations can be summed up with one- or five-star critiques.

"We don't bring up stars," Joseph said. "We let the tape and our eyes speak for themselves. A lot of great players don't have a lot of stars. I will say this: The guys we have committed and will get committed will be four- and five-star people.

"It's our job as coaches to get those four- and five-star people and get this program to compete for SEC titles. I think fans deserve to have this program where it needs to be. That's at the top of the SEC."

Lifting a program to the heights of Alabama and Florida sounds challenging enough, especially since the Vols have lost at least six games in three of the last five seasons. Playing catchup to those programs seems even more daunting if you're eliminating prospects based on anything, character included.

Certainly, there's a risk in setting standards that prevent you from acquiring a talented player. But based on UT's past recruiting, there's also a risk in setting your standards too low while placing talent above everything else - even if you get a thumbs up from recruiting services.

For example, take UT's 2009 class, which was assembled by former coach Phillip Fulmer and his successor, Lane Kiffin.

Seven players from that class have been in trouble before the start of their second year of college; three of them are no longer on the team following arrests; the status of several others is uncertain.

So the timing has never been better for a UT coach to say - as Dooley has repeatedly - how much character matters on a team and in a program. I believe he's committed to that. But how do you judge character in the recruiting process when NCAA rules are so restrictive in regard to coach-player contact?

"It's like you are an investigator, a private eye," Joseph said. "The more people you talk to, the better you know a kid."

Those talks won't be limited to family and coaches.

"I might talk to the barber who cuts a kid's hair," Joseph said. "It boils down to how hard are you willing to work to find out information."

The fact-finding mission will intensify when a recruit is on UT's campus.

"Everybody in our organization - the strength coach, Andre Lott (UT's character education coordinator), the secretaries - will touch him," Joseph said. "Everybody will touch the kid's family. We will listen to everybody's feeling on him."

All the input and investigation provide no guarantees. And when you make a big deal out of aspiring to higher standards, you're setting yourself up for criticism. Wide receiver Da'rick Rogers, the most heralded player in Dooley's first signing class, was among the UT players supposedly involved in a barroom brawl last month, though his role has yet to be determined.

Never mind that it's an imperfect process. There's something to be said for trying to recruit good people as well as good players.

The obvious question: Can you do that and still win at the highest level?

UT fans will have to wait at least four years for the answer.

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              865-342-6284      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 118

whistlinwingman writes:

Sounds good to me. Good article Adams!

ric1958 writes:

Stars belong in the sky not in college football.

Pullingguard writes:

Two points and no one wants players that are problems to the team or University... That said,
the recruiting process that Joseph and Dooley used in Louisana did not produce winners, now they might have produced some good people but not winning football. And John you say we will not really know for four (4) years, if so, I can imagine the attendance at UT the third and fourth years... Just dont think the fans will wait four years for a competitive team in the SEC. Also, don't think Dooley can survive for 4 years losing 5/6 games year. Think everyone is pulling for Dooley to be successful, but sucessful prior to 4 years from now... So he needs to get some high caliber players, and not all those who has to be coached up to be successful 3/4 years from signing day.

whistlinwingman writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Two points and no one wants players that are problems to the team or University... That said,
the recruiting process that Joseph and Dooley used in Louisana did not produce winners, now they might have produced some good people but not winning football. And John you say we will not really know for four (4) years, if so, I can imagine the attendance at UT the third and fourth years... Just dont think the fans will wait four years for a competitive team in the SEC. Also, don't think Dooley can survive for 4 years losing 5/6 games year. Think everyone is pulling for Dooley to be successful, but sucessful prior to 4 years from now... So he needs to get some high caliber players, and not all those who has to be coached up to be successful 3/4 years from signing day.

You bring up a good point but comparing that school to UT is inconcievable. I'd say La Tech is more like MTSU here. You are simply not gonna pull a lot of talent there.

I do agree fans won't wait four years. It appears quite a few already want him gone and he hasn't even coached a game yet. I am willing to suffer a few more years, but if he don't pan out I will still be a Vol fan. I just don't want to settle for going to a bowl game as being a team goal.

poppachuck writes:

Its very funny that the coach is seeking character, when he has shown that he has little character constantly lying about whom he has spoken to, his first recruit is arrested for evading arrest and he does not suspend him or give an explanation, his refusal to talk to the media, etc. I would NEVER recommend any football player to play for this coach because he does not have the character within himself that he says he is seeking from his players.

Bogus writes:

in response to poppachuck:

Its very funny that the coach is seeking character, when he has shown that he has little character constantly lying about whom he has spoken to, his first recruit is arrested for evading arrest and he does not suspend him or give an explanation, his refusal to talk to the media, etc. I would NEVER recommend any football player to play for this coach because he does not have the character within himself that he says he is seeking from his players.

This coming from a guy hiding behind a screen name. Why don't you go right up to Dooley and say it to his face? No? Didn't think so.

alwaysVol writes:

in response to poppachuck:

Its very funny that the coach is seeking character, when he has shown that he has little character constantly lying about whom he has spoken to, his first recruit is arrested for evading arrest and he does not suspend him or give an explanation, his refusal to talk to the media, etc. I would NEVER recommend any football player to play for this coach because he does not have the character within himself that he says he is seeking from his players.

who did he lie about talking to? he has talked to the media anytime something has happened. no need in a media event in the middle of summer when nothing is happening. he is letting things play out with the Da'Rick situation. what would you have done differently?

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

stupid comment

dont agree with the guys comment but everyone on here has opinions and is hiding behind a screen name including yourself

gaj619 writes:

La. Tech-Head Coach, AD-A long term losing program-average results with first bowl win in decades.
LSU-Recruiting Coordinator-Competitive SEC program-National Championship.
I think I will trust him and not the Negative Nancy's.

RODGERVOLS writes:

in response to poppachuck:

Its very funny that the coach is seeking character, when he has shown that he has little character constantly lying about whom he has spoken to, his first recruit is arrested for evading arrest and he does not suspend him or give an explanation, his refusal to talk to the media, etc. I would NEVER recommend any football player to play for this coach because he does not have the character within himself that he says he is seeking from his players.

A lot of people would not have the guts to come on here and state that type of opinion, glad you have one. With that being said Coach Dooley has taken the right path by waiting to see what the outcome is with Rogers and his involvement in the brawl. The current players that we have seem to be trusting and buying into the coaches system. He has done a great job of putting together a great staff. Also some of the 4 and 5 star recruits that do have character and want to play for a major team in college football will come to UT. And those same recruits wouldn't have went and played for Coach Dooley at LA TECH. So give the coaches and the team a chance.

manoffewwords writes:

DD will get his share of 4-5* players. Can anyone
spell PATIENCE.

Pullingguard writes:

in response to RichRollin:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The concern I have is to view Rivals 250 and Vols do not have a single player committed from that listing. Just look and those committed to
our rivals in the SEC and other top notch teams
in other conferences. Stars may not matter to some, but these 250 for the most part are the most talented players presently (presently) in the nation. How many of them actually make outstanding players is not known, but we can be sure in assuming that more of them will make the outstanding list rather than those now listed in this 250 by rivals. I can never remember Vols not being well represented in this listing until this year. Just maybe it will change, and if so, it will be most gratifying to vol fans. So far the recruiting does not reflect what we have
come to expect in recruiting talent.

huckabee writes:

you are really going to take the word of brandon warren or bryce brown over coach dooley? dooley had no reason to lie. the players had a motive. none of us no the truth. we can only assume. i think i will give coach dooley the benefit of the doubt with those two EX-players.

tbmccord#279221 writes:

We can all bring up the negatives IF he proves that he can't handle a program on the level of Tennessee. He hasn't coached a single game and there are disinters in the ranks. We have enough issues dealing with outside influences. We don't need to fight among ourselves. Give the man a chance. Support him and the program.

tapeworm writes:

I guess we'll see what the stars mean. But,one thing's for sure – they didn't mean much at LaTech.

gaj619 writes:

in response to RichRollin:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Valid point but we don't have much choice. I was truly angry when I heard who they had hired but his momentum continues to build with me. As always 'time will tell'.

RODGERVOLS writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If Kiffin was here we wouldn't have James Stone. We would also most likely be on probation in the next 2 years. How about giving the staff a chance to show what they can do. Its easy for us to sit here at computers with no responsibilities for the overall direction of the VOL football program and say somebody else is doing it wrong. Why can't people just wait to pass judgement until the season is underway. If you want to complain so much maybe you should find another team to root for or go tell Mike Hamilton you could do a better job coaching the VOLS

DaddyVol writes:

in response to poppachuck:

Its very funny that the coach is seeking character, when he has shown that he has little character constantly lying about whom he has spoken to, his first recruit is arrested for evading arrest and he does not suspend him or give an explanation, his refusal to talk to the media, etc. I would NEVER recommend any football player to play for this coach because he does not have the character within himself that he says he is seeking from his players.

But then again, you are a troll planted here to lure prospects away. Your fear shows.

TommyJack writes:

The hayel is skype highlighting?

utfpmd writes:

in response to poppachuck:

Its very funny that the coach is seeking character, when he has shown that he has little character constantly lying about whom he has spoken to, his first recruit is arrested for evading arrest and he does not suspend him or give an explanation, his refusal to talk to the media, etc. I would NEVER recommend any football player to play for this coach because he does not have the character within himself that he says he is seeking from his players.

Wow! There are some major league morons on this site!

murrayvol writes:

in response to utfpmd:

Wow! There are some major league morons on this site!

Ya think?

Slystone writes:

For their sake I hope it works. 3 years from now we'll have an answer.

volpreacher writes:

Someone should have told Utah a couple years ago loaded with 3* players and whipped Alabama up and down the field. Also, don't say anything too loud within Boise States hearing range. They don't get too many big names either.

charles57#1378642 writes:

in response to RODGERVOLS:

If Kiffin was here we wouldn't have James Stone. We would also most likely be on probation in the next 2 years. How about giving the staff a chance to show what they can do. Its easy for us to sit here at computers with no responsibilities for the overall direction of the VOL football program and say somebody else is doing it wrong. Why can't people just wait to pass judgement until the season is underway. If you want to complain so much maybe you should find another team to root for or go tell Mike Hamilton you could do a better job coaching the VOLS

Very well stated and in my opinion very true!

rudy123 writes:

in response to alwaysVol:

who did he lie about talking to? he has talked to the media anytime something has happened. no need in a media event in the middle of summer when nothing is happening. he is letting things play out with the Da'Rick situation. what would you have done differently?

He talked to Bryce Brown earlier and asked both Bryce and Bryce's father to NOT let the media know that they had a sit down. This was reported from ESPN. PoppaChuck was probably referring to that conversation. PoppaChuck probably was wondering why did Dooley want to keep the conversation un-known to the media and us.

chaos001 writes:

in response to RODGERVOLS:

If Kiffin was here we wouldn't have James Stone. We would also most likely be on probation in the next 2 years. How about giving the staff a chance to show what they can do. Its easy for us to sit here at computers with no responsibilities for the overall direction of the VOL football program and say somebody else is doing it wrong. Why can't people just wait to pass judgement until the season is underway. If you want to complain so much maybe you should find another team to root for or go tell Mike Hamilton you could do a better job coaching the VOLS

Exactly.

And btw, how many violations has this staff racked up since they took over vs. that sob who was previously here?

99gator writes:

i keep hearing that tim tebow won't make it in the nfl because it's about talent and not character.

PureOrange writes:

in response to poppachuck:

Its very funny that the coach is seeking character, when he has shown that he has little character constantly lying about whom he has spoken to, his first recruit is arrested for evading arrest and he does not suspend him or give an explanation, his refusal to talk to the media, etc. I would NEVER recommend any football player to play for this coach because he does not have the character within himself that he says he is seeking from his players.

Sure seems it would be a waste of your time reading about Tennessee since you seem to be so discussed with this coaching staff.

Hope you find a team you like. I like mine just fine, and I am very proud to have this group of coaches.

coach799 writes:

The Jury is still out on Coach Dooley. Fitting for a lawyer, huh? I like the staff he has assembled. There have been commitments from kids who had reservations about the last group of crooks that many Vol fans were supporting blindly. When November arrives, we will have a pretty good idea what lies ahead for the next couple of seasons. If they coach up what we have, we should feel good. If injuries catch us, we will have a long year.

d_ray writes:

Who recruited Duh Rick and let him get by with under age drinking, fighting in public, and assaulting a police officer? Duh Rick certainly has "character". Bad character. Send him home if you want trust.

mercuryvol writes:

I wonder if coaching will have anything to do with UT's success or lack of. Apparently, some of you rocket surgeons not only know all about DD's character and truthfulness but also his ability to pick players and coach them to SEC championship standards.I think I'll wait awhile before calling him a liar or a lacking judge of character or ability.For the restof us---GO VOLS!

rockytopatl writes:

in response to d_ray:

Who recruited Duh Rick and let him get by with under age drinking, fighting in public, and assaulting a police officer? Duh Rick certainly has "character". Bad character. Send him home if you want trust.

Rogers has not been charged with any of those offenses. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and witness reports have suggested those charges resulted from his asking police why he was being detained. I trust the coach to make the right decisions on his character once the charges are sorted out by the legal system.

JohnsonCity_George writes:

in response to RichRollin:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just how much do you think we think you know?

JohnsonCity_George writes:

Roundball starts in November.....Can't wait!

richvol writes:

Dooley will win and win big in his third and forth year and his method is the best way to do it. It's no different than hiring and training the best employees...success follows.

Jam1Vol writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

Jam1Vol writes:

in response to d_ray:

Who recruited Duh Rick and let him get by with under age drinking, fighting in public, and assaulting a police officer? Duh Rick certainly has "character". Bad character. Send him home if you want trust.

So did you give your eye witness account to the KPD? You must have been there to know that he was drinking because he wasn't charged with that. I quess you seen him assault a police officer because he wasn't charged with that either. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest (which will probably be dropped). He simply just didn't know when to shut up and walk away.

tootsypop writes:

if character plays more of a role in signing a player than absolute talent, it's going to be a long year. you must recruit players with the most talent and athletic ability. selectively eliminate the players from that list whom have shown obvious and serious diciplinary issues during high school. most importantly, please remember that these athletes are human beings first and everyone is subject to mistakes. 16 to 18 yr old kids deserve second and third chances in life. sometimes the proper environment, guidance and leadership can turn a trouble kid/athlete around so they too can prosper given the opportunity. i would rather try to help a kid/athlete who have been in trouble and fail in the effort than never try at all.i can live with egg on my face i cannot live without trying to help a kid. character can be developed an improved over time. GOD BLESS ALL THAT TRY. GOD BLESS YOU.

TnScooby writes:

Some of these posts on here for this article are hilarious...Character is now a negative?? Character players are the backbone of ANY program as well as talent..Character makes you work hard, study (class and films), put in the effort that makes all players better...Perhaps you all should read a previous article on DC Justin Wilcox and how he, in his OWN words , tells of having ZERO athletic talent in college but using his work ethic and brain power to develop his game to 2nd team All-PAC 10...There are hundreds,if not thousands, of kids who don't get the "star" ratings that project them to become superstars but yet still achieve that status...and it all begins with character...for every 5 star athlete who fails because of a LACK of character ,there is always another low star rated player who becomes unreal through work ethic and yes, character...The 4 and 5 star players will be recruited here IMO but until the whole "character " issue is a solid foundation and not a detriment, perhaps all those possessing a crystal ball should help out with the recruiting so as to eliminate any problem players who are rated above a 3 star...I cannot belive that some posters here are questioning the character of CDD...There has been one constant throughout the national AND local media reports about CDD, and that is his strong character traits...If anyone of the posters who are putting CDD in question on this point could elaborate, perhaps you could enlighten us as to exactly what about his past or present would make you say these things? If you research the WHOLE Bryce Brown situation I would tend to believe that CDD did the best he could, as well as with Brandon Warren..Bryce's own father has said ( no exact link but google will find the info) that CDD did as much as could be expected and that the fault lies with Bryce...As far as Warren goes, it was a lost cause since he was gone last season...But everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I look forward to seeing some posts that point out verifiable specifics concerning character issues with CDD....Just saying " he lied" does not convince me in the least...Be specific and point out a link or some material that backs up that claim..I for one am actually VERY proud of the progress and the actions of CDD thus far...When success occurs on the field as well, I guess the naysayers will run out of negative things to point out...wishful thinking I know, but hope is a wonderful thing, maybe the best thing you can have!

Go Vols!!!

PMC2726 writes:

I don't care about stars, as long as we are winning. In the same breath, I don't care about producing solid young men if we are losing football games. Every player we recruit can't be "the diamond" in the rough that has somehow slipped under the radar. While stars and lists don't necessarily equate to great players (or character), they certainly are a pretty good indicator of who has the most talent. And 9 times out of 10, talent wins out.

HOSSFLY writes:

let's face it girls and boys..........we are bruised and battered..... down, but not out. and we might not be getting the 5* players we all like to see in the scouting services. and yes, we are in dire need of some moral leadership and good character from some select young 3* athletes. but if this coaching staff does not put a winner on the beautiful natural turf in neyland stadium, we all will be clamoring for dooley to be gone in 3-4 years. i hope he can do it, and maybe this "flying under the radar" thing will work.

GBO !!!!

Pullingguard writes:

in response to tweetdriver63#346474:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Missed the point... When at LaTech you recruit to play at that level..You cannot compete with the LSU etc., but you compete for the talent that fits your level of competition and Dooley did not have a winning record doing that. Some of he players he is recruiting to TN really belongs at LaTech or a similiar school. All 4/5 stars do not make it big time, some are flops, but the o/o are better then beefing up with 3 star players... Top players are influenced by where top talent goes, so will be interesting when Feb signing period rolls around. Just hope Dooley is very successful.

vol98champ writes:

The top 250 players as of today haven't played a down as seniors. The key to success is getting guys who have an upside. I loved Fulmer but one of his biggest problems was that he signed many players who were at the peak of their abilities in high school. Scouting services are wrong about 30% of the time. At least 25 to 30 4's and 5's will commit the last week. Hope we can get some of them, but if they read the XXXX here by some of you idiots they will think at least twice about someplace else.

TheFuj writes:

Stars are not the only thing, but one can definitely see that the teams with the most 4's and 5's are the ones playing for championships year in and year out. You can definitely find a great player listed as a 2 or 3 star, and you definitely find a 4 or 5 star that does not live up to that billing, but overall just look at the teams that consistently "win" the recruiting battles are the teams consistently in the BCS championship contention.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Is having players of great character about reducing the coaches headaches in dealing with problem students or winning games? If this is going to be the approach we will always be a puppy in the SEC. It's like someone said the VOL culture will not allow this approach for more than 3 years unless we are proven wrong.

whistlinwingman writes:

in response to listentothemusic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Point taken. However he also brought in the rest of the upperclassman and their stars that have little or no value to this years team. I am grateful for what Phil done but it was time to move on just like it is time for all of his fans to move on and either become a VOL fan and find someone else to pull for.

OrangePride writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Two points and no one wants players that are problems to the team or University... That said,
the recruiting process that Joseph and Dooley used in Louisana did not produce winners, now they might have produced some good people but not winning football. And John you say we will not really know for four (4) years, if so, I can imagine the attendance at UT the third and fourth years... Just dont think the fans will wait four years for a competitive team in the SEC. Also, don't think Dooley can survive for 4 years losing 5/6 games year. Think everyone is pulling for Dooley to be successful, but sucessful prior to 4 years from now... So he needs to get some high caliber players, and not all those who has to be coached up to be successful 3/4 years from signing day.

Good post Pullinguard. If an athlete was in a lot of trouble in HS and had noticeable character issues, then taking a pass may be warranted. But the bottom line is this. If you are bringing in mostly 2 and 3 stars to play against teams with mostly 4 and 5 star kids, well, your prospects for championships is not too high. That's particularly true when there are coaches like we have in the SEC on the other side of the field. And as you said, I doubt we can go four years with 6 and 7 win teams before that stadium starts to look considerably less full. We all want Dooley to succeed and I'm certain his goals are in the right spot. We will soon begin to see if his philosophy on recruiting can be productive. GBO!!!

Bloodrunzorange writes:

I agree the jury is out on CDD. I do like that he is surrounding himself and the program with good coaches. If you are down on CDD, remember Chuck Smith! I also think Wilcox will suprise people. ALL coaches are going to lie.... Dooley is not perfect. He will bring back the core values the Vols missed last year. GBO!!!

VolnPikwik writes:

in response to whistlinwingman:

You bring up a good point but comparing that school to UT is inconcievable. I'd say La Tech is more like MTSU here. You are simply not gonna pull a lot of talent there.

I do agree fans won't wait four years. It appears quite a few already want him gone and he hasn't even coached a game yet. I am willing to suffer a few more years, but if he don't pan out I will still be a Vol fan. I just don't want to settle for going to a bowl game as being a team goal.

Great post, I too do not want to wait 4 years to compete for SEC titles but a bowl game is a very realistic goal for this team and this season! Go Vols!

Huttdawg100 writes:

Don't be fooled: Dooley is going after the 5 star guys. Tennessee and Head Coach Derek Dooley have offered each of these 5 star athletes:
Kasen Williams, Jay Rome, Cyrus Kouandjio, Tim Jernigan, and many other 4 and 5 star recruits. Dooley knows that he has to have some top talent to win. Let's face it: after 3 coaches in 3 years, the top talent is going to wait and see the type of product Dooley is going to put on the field this fall.

I went to Tennessee from 2001 through 2005. I had 3 or 4 altercations with the UT Football players including Brandon Johnson and Albert Toeaina, and I was not the aggressor. Tony McDaniel shattered my co-worker's face in a pick-up basketball game. Frankly, character on our football team is well needed and would be welcomed by an alumni base that is burned out by the thug imagine that is Tennessee football.

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