It's no secret that the talent pool is weak during basketball's spring signing period. Still, Tyndall already landed a Junior College All-American, a former top-50 prospect, a rebounding machine from the prep-school ranks and a gifted shot-blocker. That's impressive. The fact he managed to successfully re-recruit former five-star signee Robert Hubbs, who wanted out of Knoxville one week ago, is even more impressive. Moreover, Tyndall is positioned to land several more potential difference-makers just three weeks after accepting the Vol reins. That's borderline miraculous.
The new coach started quietly enough, getting a signature from 6-foot-8, 225-pound Jabari McGhee of Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. Although he is a low-profile three-star prospect whose offer list is less than imposing, McGhee is precisely the type of high-motor backboard crasher that enabled Tyndall to routinely beat more talented foes at Morehead State and Southern Miss. He may be lacking the wow factor but he'll fit Tennessee's new system like a glove.
Tyndall made a splash with his second spring signing, landing first-team JUCO All-American Kevin Punter, a guy who shot 57 percent from the field in averaging 20.3 points per game for State Fair (Mo.) Community College last winter.
Tyndall made an even bigger splash with his third signing – Detrick Mostella, rated a top-50 prospect by one recruiting service in 2013. He has been sidetracked by some eligibility issues but, like former Vol Jordan McRae, Mostella is an electrifying athlete known for his highlight-reel dunks.
Tyndall's newest addition is 6-foot-9 Eric McKnight, a post-graduate transfer from Florida Gulf Coast University. He shot a program-record 66.3 percent from the field as a redshirt junior last season and blocked 25 shots in 23 games.
In addition to the four players already committed, Tyndall is due visits this week from Tariq Owens and Ian Chiles. Owens is a 6-foot-10½ forward from Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore whose recruitment has blown up since he got a release from the letter of intent he signed with Ohio U last November. Chiles is a 6-foot-1 post-graduate transfer who is looking for a new home once he finishes his undergraduate degree at IUPUI. He averaged 15.8 points per game for the Jaguars in 2013-14 and will be eligible at his new school in 2014-15.
Clearly, Tyndall is burning up the recruiting trail. To fully appreciate what the new Vol coach has done this spring, however, one must consult history.
When Bruce Pearl took over as Tennessee's head coach on March 28, 2005, the best he could do was sign 6-foot-9 Ryan Childress, a two-star player out of Cincinnati, and get a commitment from Anthony Passley, a 6-foot-5 forward from Indianapolis who tried to follow Pearl from Wisconsin-Milwaukee to UT only to be thwarted by the NCAA because he took one course at UWM during the summer.
So, how did Pearl's Year 1 signees fare? Childress had one decent season in four years on campus, averaging 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds as a sophomore in 2006-07. Making one start in 93 games, he averaged 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Passley contributed even less before transferring out. He played in just 17 games as a Vol, averaging 1.8 points and 1.7 rebounds while shooting 39.3 percent from the field.
Cuonzo Martin succeeded Pearl on March 27, 2011. Operating under an NCAA cloud, he signed five players that spring – two-stars Wes Washpun and Josh Richardson, plus unranked players Yemi Makanjuola, Quinton Chievous and JUCO Dwight Miller. To his credit, Martin uncovered an unpolished gem in Richardson, a 6-foot-6 guard who started at small forward the past two years and averaged 10.3 points per game as a junior last winter. He's a keeper. But the other four, to date, have done nothing.
Washpun was so loose with the basketball that he produced nearly as many turnovers (15) as points (16) in his lone season on The Hill. He may have set a school record in a 2012 game against Florida, committing four turnovers in just nine minutes of court time.
Makanjuola was so raw that he wasn't even a starter on his prep school team, Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C. The 6-foot-9 post showed why by averaging 1.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in two seasons on The Hill before being dismissed from the UT program.
Miller, a 6-foot-8 post player, was an even bigger bust. He averaged 7.0 minutes and 2.4 points per game as a junior, then sat out his entire senior season with a knee problem.
As for Chievous, he redshirted in 2011-12, then played mostly mop-up roles in 2012-13 and 2013-14. His 32 minutes of court time last winter was lowest on the team among scholarship players. He is contemplating a transfer this summer.
Remember those dates mentioned earlier? Pearl took over March 28, 2005, Martin March 27, 2011. Tyndall took over nearly a full month later (April 22) but already has more good prospects signed than Pearl and Martin combined. And, from all appearances, Tyndall is on the verge of adding two or three more guys who project to contribute significantly to the program.
It's amazing that the new coach has accomplished so much in so little time. Apologies to Johnny Majors, but Tyndall just might be a hard worker and a miracle worker.