At one point during an absolutely wild final two months on the recruiting trail, Terry Joseph's mom and brother were a few missed calls away from pasting his photo onto a milk carton.
Throughout the Tennessee safeties coach/recruiting coordinator's career, that time of year, ironically, had been when he talked to his two closest family members the most. There might not have been enough time to sleep or eat a proper meal, but there was always some time to kill while driving to and from visits.
For six glaringly apparent reasons, the final stretch toward 2012's National Signing Day was different in every possible way for Joseph, wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
They were the coaches who stayed and tried to clean up the perceived mess left by the departure of six coaches. It wasn't easy — recruiting never is — but it was all the more rewarding to them when it was over.
"It was an amazing run," Joseph said Wednesday during an interview session with UT's assistant coaches, a group in which new coaches outnumber the old ones 2:1.
"At the end, when you look back at it, there was a lot of energy."
That's apparent simply by looking at Joseph, who was constantly joking and speaking with high enthusiasm during 30 minutes of questions from Knoxville's ever-expanding media contingent. Built like the defensive backs he coaches and no taller than 5-foot-10, Joseph didn't have 10 pounds to lose, but he did anyway.
"To go through the whole contact period going through everything, I think it's unprecedented," Joseph said. "After a while, we just got used to it. We lost a coach, 'all right this guy is on the road, that guy is on the road.' "
The problems, of course, arose when there were no more coaches to put on the road.
When defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon left for positions at Washington, the Vols were left with six assistant coaches, one fewer than the full complement of seven that teams are allowed to have on the road during a contact period. Though it wasn't made official until UT named Sam Pittman to be his replacement, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was as good as gone to Notre Dame shortly before UT brought in new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri.
Joseph joked that his job as recruiting coordinator was made easier because "there was no schedule."
"Everybody could go recruiting," he said. "We didn't have anybody in the office."
Coach Derek Dooley apparently had a few jokes, too. Perhaps that helped ease the pain.
"There was a couple times when we came in the staff room and Coach Dooley, he says 'where is everybody?' " Hinshaw said. "And we're like, 'Coach, this is it.' "
At one point, UT strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery was put on the road. He made in-home visits with linebacker Dalton Santos, who switched his commitment from UT to Texas just days before Signing Day, and defensive tackle Danny O'Brien, one of the "pillars" of UT's class, Joseph said.
At one of the Vols' lower moments of the offseason, Joseph said he considered sending top football administrator David Blackburn on a similar excursion.
"You've just got to keep on dodging bullets," Joseph said. "When all that happened, Jim, Darin, myself and Coach Dooley, we just had to keep the plan together."
The toughest moments came when Joseph, Hinshaw or Chaney would join Dooley on a visit in which neither coach had a previous relationship with the player. The point man/wing man give-and-take was replaced by a more freestyle approach that certainly involved its fair share of awkwardness.
"That's kind of an uncomfortable feeling," Joseph said.
How crazy did it get? Joseph was short on specifics, but he said it wasn't uncommon to leave the home of one prospect with a completely different destination arranged for his next visit than when he entered the house. He and his fellow coaches sometimes left their footprints in four different cities in a single day.
That's why Joseph, unprompted, used Wednesday's platform to thank new athletic director Dave Hart, who told the staff "we've got to do what we got to do as far as planes and travel and getting guys where we need to be."
"That came from the top to make us have to adjust, to make things happen," Joseph said. "That can't happen commercially."
UT's final rankings in the three major scouting services weren't spectacular — 19th on 247Sports, 18th on Rivals and 26th on Scout — but they weren't the disaster many might have anticipated moments after the Vols' season-ending loss at Kentucky.
Joseph and Dooley, though, picked a good place to start regathering some momentum. Their first visit post-Kentucky, while "the Internet was going crazy," was to see Darrington Sentimore, a junior-college defensive lineman who signed with the Vols one month later.
It wasn't for another month or so before Joseph finally confirmed to his family that he was, in fact, alive. He was quick to let them know he would be off the grid again for a few days after Signing Day.
Joseph turned his phone off.
"I've had more texts, more calls from recruits, from parents, guys trying to get jobs, guys who left trying to check back in and making sure there were no hard feelings," Joseph said. "We burned the lines up."