Will UT Crash Top 100?

If you tend to see the glass half full you're probably pretty satisfied with Tennessee's current recruiting campaign. If, on the other hand, you usually see the glass as half empty, you might have reason to wring your hands, or even offer a sacrifice to the gridiron gods.

Undoubtedly, the Vols are off to a fast start with an even dozen prospects committed to their Class of 2007, including six from Tennessee. However, none of those 12 commitments are listed among Scout.com's recently updated Top 100 prospects nationally. Furthermore, only offensive lineman Darris Sawtelle is rated as high as a four-star recruit, and none of the half dozen in-state commitments are among the top four prospects in the Volunteer State.

Adding to the negative side of the ledger is the fact that 52 of the Top 100 prospects nationally have already committed to a total of 24 colleges. Texas leads the list with nine from Scout.com's Top 100. USC has six, while Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan have four each. Florida is next with three. Florida State, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and Iowa have two each. Wisconsin, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Penn State, Maryland, Oregon, North Carolina and Nebraska have landed one each from the cream of the college prospect crop.

There are certainly plenty of other fine programs that have yet to score among the most elite 100. For instance: Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and LSU from the SEC have yet to make their mark. However each of those schools has more four-star prospects committed than UT does. Plus those programs have more fertile home state recruiting ground.

Naturally, not all the news is bad. In fact, some of the news is actually very good. Huntingdon linebacker Chris Donald, who has high interest in Tennessee, made the biggest move from a top 15 player at his position to No. 2. Donald began as four-star prospect on Scout.com's original rankings was dropped to a three-star prospect and has now been raised to the only five-star prospect in Tennessee and No. 32 overall prospect nationally.

The Vols are also strong contenders for four-star prospects Harrison Smith, of Knoxville Catholic, and Rae Sykes of nearby Alcoa High School. Smith is rated the nation's No. 19 linebacker, while Sykes is ranked No. 22 among defensive ends.

Tennessee is also still involved with many of the uncommitted on Scout's Top 100, including: No. 1 rated Marvin Austin, a defensive tackle from Washington D.C., No. 9 Caleb King, a running back from Norcross, Ga., No. 12 Eric Berry, a DB from Fairburn, Ga., No. 16 Ronald Johnson, a corner from Muskegon, Mich., No. 17 John Clay, a RB from Racine, Wisc., No. 41 Kristofer O'Dowd, an O-lineman from Tuscon, Arizona, No. 43 Kodi Burns, a QB from Ft. Smith, Ark., No. 56 Ron Brooks, wide receiver from Irving, Texas, No. 61 Tony Clemons, a wideout from New Kensington, Pa., No. 65 Stefoin Francois, a DB from Reserve, La., No. 79 Lennon Creer, a RB from Tatum, Texas, and No. 87 Armando Allen, a RB from Hialeah, Fla.

For clarification purposes it must be pointed out that recruiting lists aren't carved in stone. They constantly change and evolve, especially as results from senior seasons start to come in and become well circulated. Indeed Tennessee may already have a commitment from a prospect that will end up on a top 100 list. Or the Vols may eventually sign several of the aforementioned big names they are pursuing.

So you may ask: What difference does it make if a team has top prospects committed?

Good question.

It's really a matter of momentum and perception. Like attracts like, and if you have elite prospects committed, you are more likely to attract others that want to be part of a top signing class that can eventually compete for championships. It was just such momentum that helped UT land the nation's No. 1 class in 2005. That type of clout can cut through a lot of the obstacles that usually makes it so difficult to sign outstanding out-of-state talent.

If the Vols' good start on the field this season continues, it should provide a boost down the stretch of the 2007 recruiting campaign. If the season takes a turn south, Tennessee could be looking at its second straight sub par signing class. That is a frightening thought, knowing how just one bad class can come back to haunt a program.

Bottom line: The next four months will tell us a lot about UT's football future.


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