Coaches still recruiting in Knoxville

The departure of Lane Kiffin from Tennessee to USC has left a lot of recruits in limbo. Classes beginning in Knoxville Wednesday morning had players who enrolled early having second thoughts. The coaches who were left behind at Rocky Top are still recruiting and preparing for a big weekend even though they may not have jobs when a new coach is hired.

The University of Tennessee had one of the top 10 recruiting classes in the country at the beginning of the week, but now barely hanging in the Top 25. The number will likely continue to drop as recruits weigh their options this close to signing day.

Several coaches remain in Knoxville and trying to salvage the class of 2010. Assistant coaches Lance Thompson, Willie Mack Garza, Jim Chaney and interim head coach Kippy Brown are still recruiting for the Volunteers.

These coaches have a tough task trying to remain upbeat even though their future is in limbo as well. A new coach may clean house upon arrival, but for now the coaches left behind are keeping a calm, positive front for recruits and commitments.

Tennessee was expected to host a big group of official visitors this weekend, but the numbers are turning into a smaller group than expected. Damien Robinson, four-star offensive tackle and Shon Coleman, three-star offensive tackle from Olive Branch, Miss., are two players no longer expected to visit.

Eddrick Loften, four-star safety from Irving-Nimitz, Texas, still plans to keep his official visit date. He had been committed to Oklahoma, but Loften decided to de-commit from the Sooners after the coaching staff asked him not to visit other schools. He will visit Rocky Top this weekend and Kansas January 29.

"It's kind of crazy he would leave them like that," said Eddrick Loften of Lane Kiffin. "That is not going to change my decision though. I still plan to visit them this weekend."

Some commitments have jumped ship, and others are waiting to see who Tennessee hires before making their final decision. J.C. Copeland, three-star defensive end from LaGrange-Troup County, Ga., will take other visits. He is in communications with the staff in Knoxville.

"I spoke to Lance Thompson today," said Copeland. "They still want me up there. I am going to take my official visit up there this weekend. I am also going to visit South Florida and South Carolina. I am going to South Florida next week, then South Carolina the next. I still feel very good with my commitment to Tennessee though."

Marques Dixon, three-star cornerback from Decatur-Southwest Dekalb, Ga., was another commitment from the Peach State who spoke with Lance Thompson.

"I have not de-commited," said Dixon. "I just need to talk to everyone. I need to talk to my parents, to my coach and to Tennessee. I spoke to coach Lance Thompson earlier. I am going to go up there this weekend for my visit.

"I was really shocked to hear about coach Kiffin. I wasn't really picking my decision based on the head coach, but coach Monte Kiffin played a huge role. I wanted to play of a legendary coach like that."

Markeith Ambles, four-star wide receiver from McDonough-Henry County, Ga., is scheduled for an official visit to Tennessee this weekend. It's uncertain if he will keep the same plans. One individual close to Ambles said the decision could come down between USC and Alabama.

Ambles had visited USC last summer, but the Trojans had pulled his scholarship prior to his unofficial visit. Alabama's Kirby Smart spoke with Ambles this week, and the national champs may have positioned themselves in the mix. Look for Kiffin to make a big push for the Peach State product as well. We already know the former Tennessee staff has been in contact.

It's always a fluid situation in recruiting, but as of today the Tennessee coaching staff expects to receive official visits this weekend from Eddrick Loften, J.C. Copeland, Marques Dixon, Markeith Ambles and Ralph Williams.

Corey Nelson had set an official visit for this weekend, but he has not confirmed his plans. Ralph Williams is very close with Delvin Jones, and Jones has officially de-committed from Tennessee.

Stay with and InsideTennessee for the very latest breaking news in Knoxville.

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