- Signing day celebration at Neyland Stadium
- Derek Dooley addresses the question of athletic scholarships
- Derek Dooley talks about DB LaDarrell McNeil
- Coach Dooley talks about some of the players from the 2012 signing class
- How the 25-man rule impacted the Vols' 2012 signing class
- Derek Dooley addresses Deion Bonner's 2011 arrest
- Vols faced challenges on the road to National Signing Day
Tennessee signed 21 football recruits Wednesday. If you want to know what that means to the future of UT football, you have come to the wrong place.
But I can venture an opinion on what the class says about the current state of UT football. The opinion was formulated by recognizing a handful of recruiting hits and taking note of a couple of misses.
Bottom line: UT is more desperate than prosperous.
First, the misses — the most telling of which were linebacker commitment Otha Peters, and defensive tackle Korren Kirven, who entered the stretch run of recruiting seemingly torn between UT and Virginia Tech.
Peters opted for Arkansas the day before signing. Kirven backed off the Vols and Hokies for national champion Alabama.
Those were not-so-subtle reminders that when you have suffered through three losing seasons in the last four years, you can be as vulnerable in recruiting battles with more successful programs as you are on the field.
Losing long-standing linebacker commitment Dalton Santos to Texas wasn't as significant. He grew up a Texas fan. When the Longhorns finally expressed interest, he couldn't resist.
But neither Peters nor Kirven had a childhood infatuation with the program they chose. They were out-of-state signees who picked top-10 teams over a team that just went 5-7 and lost six assistant coaches.
As for the hits, the standout signee is obvious. His name is Deion Bonner, a cornerback from Columbus, Ga.
I don't know Bonner's 40 time or vertical jump. I just know he was charged with a crime while visiting Georgia's campus.
How's that for standing out?
He stands out further since second-year coach Derek Dooley and his staff have talked so much about recruiting "high-character" players in rebuilding UT's program.
"When I say bringing in high character (players), that doesn't mean I'm never going to bring in guys who have made mistakes," Dooley said at Wednesday's media gathering. "Because I've made as many mistakes in my life as anybody.
"We did a lot of diligence on the situation. Deion was incredibly truthful and incredibly remorseful."
No matter what glowing attributes the Vols might have uncovered in their recruitment of Bonner, does that outweigh a police report? He was one of three people arrested by University of Georgia police following the theft of iPods and iPhones from the unsecured lockers of seven Georgia players.
Recruiting interest in Bonner waned elsewhere after the incident, but not at UT, reminding you that the pursuit of high-character players sounds better in theory than in the reality of back-to-back losing seasons.
Dooley needs a talent upgrade. Fast. So he's willing to take a chance on a player who can't resist the temptation of an unlocked locker but might be a lock-down corner.
Given UT's immediate needs, junior college players are more alluring than ever, which brings up encouraging news for UT fans. When you check out the resumes of this class, three of the most impressive are from the junior college ranks.
Never mind what defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore accomplished at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. I remember him as a backup lineman at Alabama. I also remember that he looked like an Alabama lineman. That's high praise for a UT signee.
Daniel McCullers looks like a former Alabama lineman. McCullers, who last played at Georgia Military Institute, is in the Terrence Cody weight division at 6-foot-6, 380 pounds. As the 3-4 alignment becomes more prominent in UT's defensive plans, it's helpful to have someone towering over center who, as Dooley put it, is like "two people."
Cordarrelle Patterson is a consensus five-star wide receiver coming to a program that can benefit enormously from a five-star anybody. So even if Patterson falters at the major-college level, his signing flashes neon bright for now — just as Kenny O'Neal's once did.
UT signed O'Neal as a junior college five-star wide receiver five years ago. He had two career catches at Tennessee.
But the Vols can't think about potential recruiting busts now. They have to hope that Patterson plays up to his billing, McCullers becomes the next Mt. Cody, and Sentimore plays like what he once was — an Alabama lineman.
That's the state of UT football.