Regional recruiting?

Most Tennessee football recruiting classes include at least a half-dozen guys who live so far away that their air travel includes a couple of layovers and an in-flight meal. That isn't the case this year, however.

The Vols' 18-man class for 2008 consists of five signees from Tennessee, three from Georgia, three from Louisiana, two from Alabama, two from Florida, two from North Carolina and one from Mississippi. Not one signee hails from north of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi River.

By comparison, the Vols' 22-man class of 2007 included two signees from Texas (Denarius Moore, Lennon Creer), one from Oklahoma (Gerald Jones), one from Michigan (Darris Sawtelle), one from Ohio (Ben Martin) and one from California (Cody Pope for the second time).

The 2006 signing class also featured several long-distance signees – Dorian Davis (Iowa), Ramone Johnson (Illinois), Chase Nelson (Oklahoma), Cody Pope (California) and Nick Stephens (Texas).

This year notwithstanding, head coach Phillip Fulmer says the Vols have no intention of shifting their recruiting from a national basis to more of a regional basis.

"No sir," he said. "Huh-uh. We were all over the place. We're not a regional recruiting team. We're a national recruiting team."

The Vol coach has said many times that Tennessee's recruiting effort starts in-state, then moves to the outlying states and, finally, to the far corners of the northern hemisphere (including Hawaii). He doesn't enjoy the luxury of having dozens of Div. 1 prospects within the state's boundaries – a la California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. He wishes he did.

"The closer, the better, honestly," Fulmer said. "We try to treat North Georgia, Western Carolina, Southern Virginia, Southern Kentucky and Eastern Arkansas as in-state areas the best we can. That's going to be our first emphasis."

Even in 2007, when the Big Orange signed an inordinate number (11) of in-state prospects, the Vols still had to fill out their recruiting class with two signees from Texas and one each from Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan and California.

After acknowledging that Tennessee and its neighboring states will continue to be "our first emphasis," Fulmer added, "But we have the tradition and the facilities to go anywhere and have a chance to recruit."

Odds are, Tennessee will extend its recruiting net wider in the next 12 months than it did in the past 12. New offensive coordinator Dave Clawson (Fordham) and new tight ends coach Jason Michael (New York Jets) have ties to the Big Apple. Clawson and new receivers coach Latrell Scott are fresh from stints at the University of Richmond, so they have loads of contacts in Virginia.

As Fulmer put it: "The dynamics of our staff actually gives us some advantages in Virginia, in the East and Ohio in the future."

The coach said he already has assigned recruiting territories for the coming year, adding that putting the right coach in the right area is "very important."

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