Working under the assumption Tennessee would be willing to spend eight scholarships, who are the eight best prospects left to sign. A practical probability factor is built into this formula and need outweighs rank as it relates to "best available" prospect. Remember regardless of how high a player is rated or how much it might affect UT's team ranking, it's still all about need.
There are also other extenuating circumstances that impact a player's "fit factor" — let's examine three examples from UT's outstanding Class of 2002. The Vols signed three Parade All-American linemen in that group that will not even be at UT next fall.
Brandon Jefferies is an offensive lineman from North Carolina that never gained and the strength or size to play in the SEC and recently dropped out of school. Heath Benedict exited the scene last fall having never played a down for the Vols. Benedict was projected to be a discipline risk and he didn't disappoint. At last report, he's planning to enroll at Clemson in his home state of South Carolina. Finally, there's Jonathan Mapu, who proved to be gridiron warrior in his first two seasons on The Hill but now he's a Mormon missionary who won't be available until the 2006 season.
Another high school all-American, O.J. Owens, recently transferred to Western Carolina. He came to Tennessee as the No. 1 safety in the country. Meanwhile sophomore Antwan Stewart, who wasn't even rated among the top 40 players in Virginia in 2001, played extensively last fall as a redshirt freshman and projects as one of UT's starting corners in 2004. Injuries impacted Owens development at Tennessee while Stewart is a player who got overlooked after transferring from Florida.
In summary, so many elements enter into the evaluation process and the coaching staff often has insights and information that a recruiting analysts does not. With that lengthy qualifier out of the way, here's the top eight on Tennessee's Most Wanted List in alphabetical order.
(1) S Tony Bell (6-2, 205, 4.5) An ideal fit for Tennessee's strong safety role. A big-time talent, who might be underrated at No. 8 nationally among safeties, Bell could become a four-year starter and is the perfect complement for sophomore free safety Corey Campbell. Also has the size to become a standout linebacker in Chavis' defensive scheme.
(2) LB Hugh D'Imperio (6-41/2, 230, 4.6) Could play three linebacker positions, defensive end, and maybe even fullback. A prospect who offers versatility as well as intensity, plus his brother was one of the nation's best sophomores in 2003.
(3) DT Marque Hall (6-5, 270, 4.8) The best defensive lineman left on the board, this North Carolina native could work his away into UT's rotation as a freshman. (Fred Bledsoe, of Little Rock, Ark., would not be a bad second choice at DT for UT).
(4) FB David Holbert (6-2, 235, 4.55) This Brentwood Academy product has become critical to Tennessee's class since the Vols are in need of a fullback to play in the fall of 2004.
((5) CB Joe Manning (6-1, 175, 4.4) The type of cover corner that's in high demand and short supply. With no corners signed in UT's Class of 2004 and with four DBs to replace from its dime package, this Manning is no average Joe.
6) OL Roland Martin (6-6, 335, 5.2) With JC transfer Albert Toeaina penciled in for a starter and Anthony Parker and Cameron Mayo likely to redshirt, the Vols need that one true freshman who can come in and make an impact on the depth chart. At No. 5 nationally, Martin is a great choice, but it's anybody's guess where he'll land.
(7) QB Brent Schaeffer (6-3, 190, 4.45) What the Vols need a quarterback? Schaeffer may or may not be able to help the Vols next fall but he's the best dual threat QB in the nation and might be just what Tennessee needs to lift its offense out of a two-year slump.
(8) LB Brian Toal (6-2, 228, 4.5) A linebacker who could come in and compete for playing time immediately, Toal is an impact player on defense and probably the best overall recruit left on Tennessee's board. Some would argue Derrick Harvey is higher as the nation's No. 3 defensive end, but end isn't the need position for the Vols that linebacker is in 2005. Toal could also played fullback in a pinch. Lawrence Timmons, Josh Johnson, Robert Ayers or Ricky Gallon would all be suitable replacements with Antonio Reynolds already secured.
This is an elite eight that, added to an already solid class, could keep Tennessee in the top ten for years to come.