Hay's in the barn ... almost

Four years ago Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer had just 15 commitments as National Signing Day approached. This year he has twice that many. Still, that may be more a sign of the times than a sign of success.

"The hay's not in the barn yet because we've got another weekend to get through," Fulmer said. "But it (recruiting) has changed."

Basically, the glut of information on prospects now available through Scout.com and other sources has sped up the recruiting process. College coaches are quicker in identifying which prospects they want to pursue and the prospects are quicker in identifying which schools present the best opportunity for immediate playing time.

As a result, more players are committing early, rather than waiting until National Signing Day. So, schools who are slow to offer scholarships and secure commitments risk having to settle for what's left after the talent pool has been significantly depleted.

As Fulmer put it: "With all the services that are out there and kids looking (to commit) so much faster, you either get in that game or you get left out."

In the old days many of the elite prospects waited until the last minute to announce their decisions. That's why Tennessee was able to rustle up eight eleventh-hour prospects (including Robert Meachem) on Signing Day of 2003.

Signing Day of 2007 won't be nearly so dramatic … for Tennessee or anyone else. Most of the top prospects already have committed. Only a few are waiting until Wednesday to go public with their choices. Of course, several of these will savor the spotlight by holding news conferences, then picking up one of two team hats to signify their verdict. The "hat trick" isn't nearly as popular as it once was, however.

"There's not many guys anymore that want to make that decision on the last day," Fulmer said. "Actually, coaches aren't going to allow that to happen in too many cases … where they put the hat on and you really don't know (where they're going). If they're putting a hat on (these days) somebody probably already knows."

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