Long Gone to Dawgs

At least early on, UT's 2009 recruiting campaign shares some interesting parallels to UT's 2005 signing effort when the Vols accomplished the highly improbable, by assembling the nation's No. 1 class of football prospects despite failing to sign the top two prospects in the Volunteer State.

The five-star names on the lips of Vol Nation that year were Michael Oher and Patrick Turner. Oher, a mammoth offensive lineman from Memphis Briarcrest Christian School, was ranked the nation's top tackle prospect. Turner, of Goodpasture High School in metro Nashville, was a classic big receiver with game-breaking speed, strength and leaping ability. He was also widely regarded as the nation's best receiver. These in-state standouts were to be the crown jewels of Tennessee's star studded signing class.

That Tennessee lost both of these stellar in-state prospects remains one of the great laments in a proud football recruiting history on The Hill, or at least the history that relates to the information era when coverage went from word-of-mouth to speed-of-light in the twinkle of an eye.

Of course the blow was cushioned considerably by an otherwise standout group that is prominently featured on the 2008 team with 11 projected starters from that No. 1 ranked class. Included in that group are: Demetrice Morley, Jonathan Crompton, Rico McCoy, Chris Scott, Josh McNeil, Jeff Cottam, DeMonte Bolden, Lucas Taylor, Dan Williams, Wes Brown and Austin Rogers. Others from that class that figure prominently in the Vols fall plans are Gerald Williams, (Yes, 2005 was the first time G,W. inked with UT.), Marsalous Johnson, Josh Briscoe, Valdamir Richard and Montario Hardesty. Other former starters from the Class of 2005 that were claimed by attrition are LaMarcus Coker and Ricardo Kemp, while Antonio Wardlow was a major special team's contributor for the Vols and Raymond Henderson was a four-star defensive lineman and the nation's No. 4 rated defensive end.

Imagine if the Vols' offense could add Coker, Oher and Turner to their fall lineup. Put that trio of five-star prospects that hails from Tennessee on UT's roster and you go from an attack that is potentially good into one that is undoubtedly loaded.

The point to this rehash of history is to remind UT faithful that you can put together an outstanding class while losing the state's top two prospects. However that doesn't mean you won't eventually miss them as we can glean from the aforementioned scenario.

That helps put the loss of Austin Long to rival Georgia into some sort of perspective. Although Long is a four-star not a five-star prospect he is the nation's No. 9 rated offensive tackle and, like Oher, he is from Briarcrest Christian and chose to go to an out-of-state SEC school. The fact he signed with a team Tennessee plays every year, makes it a tougher loss to take. Add to that Long's status as the state's No. 2 prospect and No. 91 among all prospects in the Class of 2009, and it become more damaging.

For sure the loss of Long amps up the intensity level surrounding the pursuit of Marlon Brown the state's top ranked prospect, the nation's No. 2 ranked wide receiver and the Class of 2009's No. 11 prospect overall.

Unlike Long there appears to a lot of time to try and persuade the Harding Academy athlete elite that UT is a program on the rise and positioned to win now. While time may be in the Vols' favor where Brown is concerned the competition isn't. Brown reports 23 offers with UCLA and Missouri the last two to take up the chase. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and USC are other viable contenders. Remember Turner signed with Trojans.

"I have narrowed it down to a top 17," Brown told Chris Layton of Scout.com on Wednesday. "I plan to visit Tennessee, UCLA, Ohio State, Georgia and Stanford this summer."

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Brown has received visits at his school this spring from Stanford, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and Florida State.

"The last couple of weeks Florida, Tennessee, Stanford, and UCLA have had the most contact (with me)."

There is no player in Tennessee or beyond that is bigger on UT's recruiting board than Downtown Marlon Brown

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