Brian Darden and O.J. Owens were can't miss prospects. They missed.
Defensive end Jason Hall wasn't a highly sought player. Hall, who played at McCallie High School in Chattanooga, was recruited by UCLA, North Carolina and Tennessee. But when he committed to Tennessee, a number of fans and recruiting experts asked: ``Who's he?''
Hall developed into a solid player, recording seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss his senior season and getting invited to the East-West Shrine Game in San Antonio.
Hall agrees that he wasn't a hot property.
``Definitely,'' Hall said. ``Tennessee wasn't exactly sold on me until the middle of my senior year. I knew my junior year of high school I was on the maybe list.
``Tennessee could see I was athletic on tape, but they weren't quite sure if I could play (in the SEC). Some former Vols put in a good word for me to coach (Phillip) Fulmer. I knew I was flying under the radar but I knew wherever I went I was going to work hard and make myself a good player.''
Some players go into a shell when their abilities are questioned. Some are motivated. Hall was motivated.
``I've had that my whole life, trying to prove people wrong on every level,'' Hall said.
It started in the sixth grade, when he was cut from his basketball team. Basketball was his first love. After being cut, he hooked up with another team and played against the coach who cut him. Hall scored 26 points. The coach admitted his mistake, apologized to Hall and asked him to join the team. Hall did.
Hall understands that mistakes are made in recruiting as well.
``Some people peak in high school,'' Hall said. ``They were great players in high school but they don't really get it done on the college level because they've already exceeded expectations.
``Some guys like me are late bloomers – pretty good in high school but hard workers that will get it done each and every year in college and tend to get better.
``Recruiting is a bit overrated, very unscientific. You have to understand you will have some bangs and some busts.''
During his UT career, Hall said he didn't pay attention to the Vols' recruiting.
``I knew they'd bring guys in each and every year to try to replace you, just like they do in the NFL,'' Hall said. ``So you have to perform and prove yourself on a year to year basis.''
Do all of UT's recruits believe they will eventually play in the NFL?
``I don't know if 100 percent do,'' Hall said. ``Probably 90 percent. Guys come to programs like this because they want that opportunity to play on the next level. I want that opportunity to play on the next level and that's one of the reasons I decided to come here as well.
``That doesn't mean you're guaranteed a shot, but at least you'll get a look after being at a program like this.''
Vols Have a Ways to Go
In watching the Rose Bowl, it made me realize how far away Tennessee is from being a national contender. Texas and Southern Cal have considerable more talent than the Vols and maximized their talent much better than UT did last season.
I was also struck by the number of in-state starters on the Texas team – 22 of 24. More than 75 percent of Southern Cal's starters came from California.
It makes you wonder about the football recruiting budgets of Southern Cal and Texas compared to Tennessee.
While I don't know the breakdown for football only, USC's men's recruiting budget is $536,000, Texas' is $715,000 and Tennessee's is $1.23 million.