Up In Smoke?

Timing is as important in football recruiting as it is in football itself, and while an incident like the Vols had Saturday in which a pair of UT freshmen receivers were issued citations for simple possession (with a prospect in tow) may not be devastating it can be very damaging.

Had it occurred earlier or later in the perpetual pursuit of prospects the incident would have a short shelf life. However taking place less than a month before national signing day means it will recounted by rival recruiters in living rooms across the country for as long as in-home visits are allowed. It may not change any minds but it could plant doubts and force UT's coaching staff into a mode of damage control.

It already cost Tennessee Jameel Owens, the prospect who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He committed to Oklahoma before the plane landed from his trip to Knoxville. His Muskogee teammate defensive tackle Stacey McGee is also Norman bound.

That's two Okies from Muskogee that don't get their kicks off THC or Class C felonies for that matter. Owens was the highest rated wide receiver UT was pursuing and McGee was a top 10 tackle prospect. Owens could have made an early impact given his size, strength and speed.

Whether the Vols would have signed either one is a matter of pure conjecture. Most analysts thought McGee would end up committing to Oklahoma sooner or later. However Owens expressed strong interest in UT during prior interviews and appeared to be one the Vols had a legitimate shot at signing until Saturday.

Additionally, it's not clear if Owens was culpable to any degree in the joint venture. However it's doubtful he would have supplied the counter band since he would have had to go through airport security. Under the circumstances it appears the responsibility rests with Ahmad Paige and Gerald Jones. William Brimfield was also present although that alone doesn't make him guilty. For that matter both Paige and Jones will get their day in court although we can assume some confession has already been rendered for the pair to be disciplined by Phillip Fulmer.

One other thing: just because Paige and Jones weren't taken to jail doesn't mean they were not arrested. Being issued a citation means they were released on their own recognizance. Essentially they were freed on a signature bond and must show up on the court date they were given.

It's for others to determine if the discipline handed out by Fulmer is proportionate to the offense. This receiver duo may well learn from the experience. If nothing else they should now know that if you're going to break the law don't give police the probable cause to pull you over. In this case it was a failure to illuminate the license plate and having smoke boiling out of open windows.

A regular violator would have known those things as well as how to beat a drug test or at least cause it to be inconclusive. Given the number of players lost over the years to such arrests and failed drug tests maybe the Vols should hire Tommy Chong to fill their last coaching vacancy.


Okay not every visitor to Knoxville had a traumatic experience. In fact Lavunce Askew of Camden Arkansas said his visit surpassed all of his expectations and he places Tennessee in solid contention for his signature.

"It was great man," he said. "It was unbelievable. It was more than I expected. There were great coaches and the teammates are like family. My host was Donald Langley."

The conversation was cut short because coaches from Texas Tech were making an in-home visit, but we picked it up the next day and his enthusiasm for UT had not waned.

"I saw a lot of the campus," he said. "Everything was top of the line. It was perfect, good people, good family. It was all amazing."

Askew said he was pleased to learn as much about the business department as he did and the academic support provided by the program. He plans to major in business finance.

His running back teammate DeAnthony Curtis did not make the trip as originally scheduled, but could make a visit over the next couple of weeks.

Askew, who is rated No. 30 among the nation's crop of defensive tackles, said he will take visits to both Ole Miss and Arkansas this month and may schedule an announcement despite the fact he is already a verbal commitment to the Razorbacks. He gave that pledge before Houston Nutt left for Oxford.

"Tennessee is definitely in the running," he added. "I really can't think of anything I didn't like about it."

Coach Steve Caldwell visited Askew on Wednesday on Tennessee's behalf.

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