Flock Work Orange

When you don't have a football coach ready to replace the one you've forced to resign no recruiting news is good recruiting news and any recruiting news is bad recruiting news.

Two weeks past the dramatic press conference when the announcement of Phillip Fulmer's resignation was made, the Vols have lost four commitments in Jarvis Giles, Antonio Foster, D.T. Shackleford and Dominique Allen. While each of these losses can be attributed directly to Fulmer's dismissal it's still difficult to assess from the standpoint of a net loss.

Giles' allegiance was more toward running backs coach Stan Drayton than to Tennessee. Unless Drayton was retained by UT's new coach Giles' was likely destined for South Carolina although he could follow Giles to a different program. A factor that mitigates against the loss of an outstanding four-star running back is a five-star running back like David Oku, who appears a solid verbal to UT. Giles and Oku have a similar running style and may have competed against other more than complemented each other. Oku committed after Giles and that may have influenced Giles' decision to reopen the recruiting process.

Dominique Allen, the big 245-pound fullback from Henry County High School, had vacillated between LSU and Tennessee for months and his commitment to the Tigers is no surprise in light of the coaching change at UT. The Vols have loaded up on fullbacks the last couple of classes and there's no assurance the next offensive system will feature fullbacks to that degree. With that said Allen could have the athleticism and quickness to play a single back where he'd offer value as a blocker, runner and receiver. The Vols may renew their fight for him. Plus they continue to recruit his teammate Marsalis Teague, who maintains a low interest in the Vols.

D.T. Shackleford, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker, of Austin HIgh School in Decatur, Ala., is technically still committed to Tennessee but he is also fully immersed in the recruiting process. He was in Oxford last week and he will set others including all of his official visits before deciding. Ranked the nation's No. 28 strong-side linebacker by Scout.com, he probably projects as a middle linebacker, if not a defensive end, in college.

Shackleford is being recruited by Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has advised him to wait until the change was complete before deciding anything. There are sources that indicate Chavis may be retained in his present role given his success and deep association with the Vols. Keeping Chavis, who played nose guard at Tennessee, could be a good move for a program facing a major makeover.

Foster's defection is based almost entirely on Fulmer's dismissal. He committed to Georgia Tech the day after the press conference announcing Fulmer's resignation. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive tackle from Valdosta, Ga., is ranked No. 55 at his position by Scout.com and rates three stars.

Losing commitments while painful is nothing more than part of the process. The Vols lost two four-star commitments — Josh Nunes to Stanford, Nyshier Oliver to Notre Dame — before the coaching change was even announced. And the fallout from a best case 5-7, or worst case 3-9 , season would have shaken a few big prospects loose even if there were no coaching changes. Elite level skill players being most apt to jump ship before boarding a dead-in-the-water offense with no lifeboats or compass.

Although any of UT's remaining 17 commitments are theoretically vulnerable until a coach is in place and questions can be answered, most of UT' s class seems to be holding. Blue chip quarterback Tajh Boyd and Oku remain in camp, but a few are looking. Offensive tackle Aubrey Phillips of Olive Branch, Miss., has visited Alabama and has plans to visit Florida, LSU and Tennessee. Fullback Toney Williams of Alpharetta, Ga., has a visit planned for Kentucky but remains a UT pledge.

A prospect to keep a close eye on is Juco defensive tackle Edwin Herbert of City College of San Francisco. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound, four-star talent could be critical to UT's defensive front next fall. He remains a Tennessee commitment but he's considering a visit to Arkansas.

The Vols 2009 Class is currently rated No. 11 nationally by Scout.com. All in all that's not bad for a program undergoing it's first coaching change in 16 years. Once a coach has been named, introduced, feted and embedded there will be a shift in coverage and momentum that can build into a big finish and a top 10 class.

Until then, no recruiting news is good news for fans of Tennessee football.


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