Should that, or some similar scenario be the case, you are excused for assuming Tennessee is always on the on the verge of landing a high ranked recruiting class this time of year. It's even fair to say that during Phillip Fulmer's tenure as head coach, a signing class not ranked in the top 10 has generally been considered a disappointment. However with five days remaining to national signing day, the Vols have assembled a fringe top 40 and will need a big kick at the finish to break into the top 30 by Feb. 6.
Regardless it appears the Class of 2008 will be the nadir of Tennessee football recruiting over at least the last two decades. The Class of 2006 finished No. 24 nationally following the 5-6 2005 season. The reaction in Big Orange Country was one of utter dismay and that class had eight four-star prospects. The 2008 class has only one four-star athlete to this point with 16 committed.
To make matters worse Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU are all enjoying outstanding campaigns and each has double-digit numbers of four- and five-star athletes while comprising four of the nation's top seven ranked teams by Scout.com. Going into the final visit weekend of 2008 there are nine SEC teams ranked ahead of UT.
Obviously the Vols aren't going to break into the upper tier of SEC squads, but with a strong finish they could get into the middle of the pack and maybe a top 30 finish nationally. It's called making the best of a bad situation much like the Vols did after a 1-2 start that included a 39-point loss to Florida.
There will be ample opportunity to look at what went wrong in Wednesday's aftermath, but for now there's still time for some good things to happen. It's important from a standpoint of talent, perception and momentum going immediately into the 2009 recruiting campaign.
Here's five things Fulmer & Co. need in order to maximize UT's remaining scholarships and capitalize on the end game.
DEFEND YOUR OWN: This means no more defections unless it opens a spot for a better prospect. The Vols lost T.J. Floyd today and Antonio Bell last week. Steven Fowlkes is wavering between Tennessee and Arkansas. Herman Lathers appears solid even though Scout.com continues to list him as a soft verbal. Marlon Walls has had a hard time deciding between Ole Miss and Tennessee and could be a vulnerable Vol commit.
PERFECT PITCH: This doesn't look like a big recruiting weekend for the Vols, but four-star running back Enrique Davis would be a great-get. He said today he's still "wide open" after visits to Ole Miss, Auburn and Oregon. Davis has the potential to be a very productive feature back in the mode of LSU's Keiland Williams, another product of Hargrave Military. It might also help the Vols land four-star teammate Quinton Coples who visited the Vols last week and is deciding between North Carolina, Florida State and Tennessee.
2 OUT OF BIG 3: AKA No. 8 strong linebacker E.J. Abrams-Ward, No. 9 offensive tackle Antoine McClain and No. 16 defensive end Keith Wells. That would be a high-octane boost for the D's front seven and an athletic O-lineman who could provide depth across the board. Tennessee probably rates a 50 percent chance with each of these four-star talents.
DON'T OVERREACH: Tennessee has to take a very judicious approach filling out this class. There may be a temptation to take a flyer on a feisty overachiever that exhausts his potential the day he signs a contract to play SEC football. Bank your numbers for a more favorable market when risks are low and rewards are high.
BE RESOURCEFUL: Watch for possible fallout from other programs that overextend their numbers or fill need and leave a quality prospect waiting at the altar. Trolling the JC waters can also yield a useful prospect with advanced development.