Of Blue Chips and Boo-Birds

While the immediate impact of Saturday's devastating defeat rocked good old Rocky Top to the core, the aftershocks could well reverberate far into the future and not all the damage was done on the field.

Will it hurt recruiting?

Sure, it's almost certain to hurt with some of the big names the Vols are still fighting to add to the commitment column. Most five-stars assume they'll get P.T. wherever they go or at least the chance to compete for it, and so they often opt for the schools on top and annually in the running for top ten status and BCS bids.

However some of those same five-star talents could see a shorter path to playing time at Tennessee, an opportunity to step into a role in which they fit and can excel. In an age when every school is on television somewhere all the time, opportunity for playing time has become the commodity of exchange and the great equalizer in this seasoned scribe's present opinion. Add that to scholarship reductions and you have a recipe for equality. (Apparently USC didn't get the memo.)

P.T. is probably followed by a high success rate at least among top 300 caliber prospects. Then you have sizzle factor i.e. facilities, fans, image and uniforms. Next is probably tradition, which seems to have faded some in an era of X-Box football and instant celebrity.

Then you have academics which are a factor most often because of courses of studies offered. Most prospects seem to feel they can get a good education at any university recruiting them. However there are some looking for a good support system and Tennessee has one of the best.

If the Vols can get on track much as they did after last season's 1-2 start and Florida flop, the damage from Saturday's high profile defiling might be negligible. On the other hand this season's slate is tougher and a total turnaround is unlikely. Still it's important for the Vols to get the offense established to the point it is consistently productive in order to appeal to uncommitted offensive prospects that are unlikely to hitch their five stars to a broken wagon. The same is true of the 2010 prospects the Vols are already pursuing.

The Vols decision to commit a lot of prospects early was atypical and meant they took on some risk, but they have also largely secured their class in terms of quantity with only seven or so scholarships remaining. Conspiracy theorists might say the decision was made in anticipation of a so-so 2008 season. If that's true it would be a case of resourceful thinking which doesn't sound a lot like Tennessee in recent years.

If history has taught Tennessee fans anything it's that you can't ever completely count out Phillip Fulmer. Except for 2005, he's been able to right the ship and put it back on course. Also his contract extension provides Fulmer some cover and his tenure gives him leverage. His achievements have earned him the respect of most Volunteer fans.

With that said the level of general dissatisfaction appears deep. Saturday's mass exodus from the house that Bob built in the second half offered silent testimony of their discontent.

There were others who chose a not so silent means of expressing their dissatisfaction, which is their prerogative in a free society. There will be no lectures from on high for those who choose to boo. However if you do choose to boo there are a few things to remember.

First it's an indiscriminate act: you may be booing a coach, play selection or the price of hot dogs but everybody on the field can hear it and feel it.

Opposing fans also hear it and are free to join in which amplifies the insult compounds the effect.

Moreover prospects hear it as do their parents, and that's a frightening lions-and-Christians scenario right out of ancient Rome to many parents giving their sons over to a school for four or five years.

When you get right down to it booing is a dumb way to make someone smart.

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