Some Like IT Hot

While it is far from the final word on the state of UT's 2008 football recruiting campaign, it is still worth noting that the deeper one digs into Scout.com's Hot 100 list the steeper Tennessee's climb appears.

As noted in part one: half of the nation's top 100 ranked prospects are already committed, and the Vols don't have anyone from that elite group. Although that might be disappointing to most Big Orange fans, it's hardly cause for panic. After all Florida doesn't yet have such a commitment and Tennessee didn't commit any of the top 100 high school prospects last year until after the season. Despite a slow start UT still ended up with a top five recruiting class for 2007.

It's also understandable that Phillip Fulmer & Co. haven't yet secured the services of a top 100 prospect. In truth, it's not even essential. The current Scout.com Hot 100 is a work in progress and will, no doubt, undergo many changes over the course of a year. Instead of a definitive cream-of-the-crop collection it's more a snapshot of the recruiting landscape eight months before national signing day.

Last year at this time Huntingdon LB Chris Donald was rated a three-star prospect, but he finished as a five-star and top 100 prospect. A player like UT commitment Aaron Douglas might eventually crack that exclusive century mark.

Addressing needs with top 500 prospects is probably more important for an SEC school to remain competitive than simply signing headline talent. With that said it should also be pointed out that impact players tend to come from the top 25 which are five-star prospects and have received the seal of approval from virtually every authority. That doesn't mean they are guaranteed to succeed, but it does usually mean they have the physical ability and skills to make an early impact on the next level.

Having established the positives in this picture there is still reason for concern. Numbers reveal that of the 50 Hot 100 prospects that committed 29, or 58 percent, are pledged to in-state colleges. The field is even more slanted to the home field advantage because Notre Dame, which has five commitments from the Hot 100 has a national recruiting base, while Oklahoma, which committed six Hot 100 prospects extracted five of those from Texas where most of the Sooners have been signed under Bob Stoops. OU has essentially become the second school of choice for football prospects from the Lone Star State.

With only one Hot 100 prospect in Tennessee (Brentwood running back/linebacker Chris Jordan at No. 67), the Volunteers are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to gaining early commitments from high-profile prospects. The reality is that even if the Vols were able to pick up a Hot 100 prospect from another state this early, the pressure to de-commit could very well become unbearable for said prospect.

Ohio State currently leads all schools nationally with seven commitments from the Hot 100 followed by Oklahoma and Texas with six each. Notre Dame and USC each have five. They are followed by Florida State and Nebraska with four each. UCLA has three Hot 100 commitments. Michigan has two as does Georgia which leads the SEC. Clemson, BYU, Missouri, Arizona, Washington and Miami have one.

Perhaps the most illuminating item gleamed from the Hot 100 analysis is that California, Texas and Florida are the top producers with 14 prospects each. Ohio has six. Then comes Washington and Illinois with four each.

Interestingly, the Sunshine State has more Hot 100 prospects than the rest of the SEC states combined. Georgia. Alabama and South Carolina have three each. Mississippi has two while Louisiana and Tennessee have one. Neither Arkansas or Kentucky have a prospect in the Hot 100. That gives Florida a 14-13 edge over the rest of the SEC.

There are certainly aberrations in the Hot 100. States that normally don't produce many top prospects i.e. Utah (3), Nebraska (2) and Washington (4) have multiple top tier players this year. It is also highly unusual for Louisiana to have only one. Still the Hot 100 provides a very good barometer as to where the best prospects reside and is a great indicator as to which states have the most depth.

Consider the last three national champions USC, Texas and Florida also represent states with the most high school football talent. Throw in titles won over the last eight years by Florida State, Ohio State, Miami and Oklahoma and the case becomes more convincing.

Conversely, schools like Michigan and Tennessee, which have great fan support and unsurpassed facilities, have to go out of state to remain competitive in their respective conferences. Michigan, like Tennessee, just has one in-state prospect in the current Hot 100. That's as sound an explanation as any to why each of these prestigious programs went the better part of a half a century between national titles.


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