Breaking The Code of Recruiting Silence

With silence in such short supply amid the clamor of this ever-changing world, it's reassuring to know that Tennessee has managed to stockpile a cache of silent commitments.

According to UT's Phillip Fulmer, the Vols have as many as six such commitments from football prospects who have conveyed their intentions to accept a scholarship from Tennessee, but have either elected, or been directed, not to talk about it.

Since talk is cheap and silence is golden, Tennessee would appear to be ahead of the game, but a few philosophical questions do arise. For instance: if a silent commitment decommits does he have to tell anyone? Is a silent commitment a man of his word or deed? Is it more honorable to lie about being a verbal commitment or to remain mute and eliminate all doubt? If a silent commitment is arrested, does he give up his right to remain silent?

Oh well, as the Eagles immortalized in song: "I guess every form of refuge has its price."

Even though we don't know who the alleged silent commitments are, we are free, if not encouraged, to speculate. Given the manner the information was presented at Tuesday's press conference, it seems like that's exactly what Coach Fulmer is inviting us to do; otherwise he wouldn't have kept quiet.

So without further ado, Inside Tennessee in cooperation with Rocky Top News and the Downtown Chapter of The Verbally Impaired presents the top five (possible) UT commitments least likely to talk.

No. 1 — TRISTEN ROSS (6-1, 195, 4.45) wide receiver from Evangel Christian High School in Shreveport, La. who is a former teammate of Tennessee freshman Jonathan Wade. Ross had listed the Vols even with Oklahoma and Texas all along, but after taking his last official visit to UT on Nov. 9, indicated he was ready to make a decision.

"Man, I like that game day atmosphere in Knoxville," said Ross. "I just had a good time and I really like the guys on the team. I know that if I come in and work hard I can get some early playing time next season. Also, Knoxville reminds me of home (Shreveport). There are many similarities. A decision between the three schools could happen at any time. It is still pretty even and they all have so many positives."

Often the school that gets the last visit makes the most lasting impression and if Ross favored Texas or Oklahoma, it's likely he would have needed more time to decide. On top of that Wade is a natural born recruiter.

No. 2 — DANIEL BROOKS (6-3, 235, 4.56) hasn't set any official visits yet and is still supposedly looking at several schools, including Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Miami in addition to Tennessee. Brooks knows more about Tennessee than any of the other schools, having camped there and made unofficial visits. The Canes haven't come across with an offer, and how often does an in-state prospect turn down the Vols to go to Arkansas or Ole Miss? It's like Lou Holtz once said: Fayetteville isn't the end of the world, but you can see it from there."

Alabama is the chief competition, but the Crimson Tide already has a linebacker named Brooks Daniels so things could get confusing. Ultimately, how could a prospect from Al Wilson's high school who plays Wilson's position and wears Wilson's No. 27 go to any school other than Tennessee?

No. 3 — WILL ROACH (6-2, 195, 4.6) knows just about everything there is to know about Alabama football, having a brother Freddie who is currently the starting middle linebacker and another brother Tim Bowen who was a former Tide wide receiver, but he still has Tennessee as his leader. Sounds like a situation where UT coaches, wary of the pressure that can be brought to bear on any worthy prospect that threatens to leave Alabama, may have advised Roach to maintain a low profile. Roach hasn't set any visits yet, but eliminated South Carolina and has essentially crossed off LSU, too. That sounds like a guy who already has a good idea what he's going to do. A very mature and independently minded young man who may be looking to make his mark on another stage. As Roach said: "Alabama is great, but it's not for everyone."

No. 4 — JAMARCUS RUSSELL (6-5, 220, 4.75) of Mobile Williamson High School is rated the nation's No. 3 quarterback and many like his upside better than any QB in the Class of 2003. Russell has a list that includes Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame and Tennessee, but says he doesn't favor any school at this point. Neither has he set any official visits.

Interestingly, Russell was at the Tennessee-Miami game the same weekend Chris Leak was visiting Texas. A few days later the story was published by the Tennessean which stated the Vols weren't recruiting Leak any longer. It's enough to make you wonder if maybe there was a deal brokered in which Fulmer assured Russell that UT wouldn't recruit Leak, if they could get a verbal in return. Georgia, LSU, Alabama and Notre Dame already have a promising young QB on campus, or one on the way. Auburn and Tennessee are the most competitive from a standpoint of early playing time, but the Vols have produced a series of outstanding signal callers and the opportunity is one of the best in the nation. It's no coincidence the Vols have been seriously considered by the top three QBs in the Class of 2003.

The announcement Tennessee wasn't recruiting Leak was looked upon by some as a recruiting ploy and even Chris' father Curtis termed the news as "ludicrous." However a week later, Leak describes his interest in Tennessee as "low" and he won't take an official visit to Knoxville. Has reality set in?

UT had a hard time getting Tee Martin out of the same high school in Mobile and past Auburn. Maybe a silent commitment was considered the path of least resistance. Besides, could six schools really stay that even for that long in the mind of a 17 year-old?

No. 5 and 5A — Defensive ends Vince Redd (6-7, 250, 4.75) of Elizabethon, Tenn., and Mario Williams (6-5, 255, 4.6) of Richlands, N.C. — Not only have we never talked to either prospect, we've never talked to anyone that's talked to them. Their phone numbers change and they're virtually impossible to reach for an interview, all of which means they both fit the classic profile of a silent commitment. Tennessee has offered both prospects and who knows, it might get both. Williams is listed as a soft commitment to N.C. State where he'll visit on Dec. 12, so Redd seems the more likely to choose Tennessee.

Mute mention: Maybe the whole recruiting process with Chris Leak has been a practical, private joke. The Vols went from unquestioned leader to also ran in the matter of weeks. Unless C.J. goes along for the ride, the Leak brothers will be far apart on future football seasons, and father Curtis will have a long way to go to get to Florida, Texas, Iowa, or USC. The way this has played out makes you wonder, but would you really trust a Leak to keep a silent commitment?

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