Vols Play The End Game

Tennessee's bold slash-and-burn recruiting style currently in use says more about the limitations imposed from having only two months and half a staff to recruit than it does about how the Vols will operate going forward.

The Tennessee coaching-recruiting brain trust realizes success in securing talent is still about building relationships, but that's a process that takes time and time was a luxury Lane Kiffin didn't have. Instead he attempted to share his message, vision and direction for Tennessee with as many quality prospects as possible, hoping it would resonate with several and turn a few.

The success of that high volume approach won't be fully known until next Wednesday, but the fact Kiffin took it on illustrates his willingness to do what's necessary to put his team in position to compete and win. He undertook a difficult task with self-confidence and demonstrated a lot of the qualities i.e. energy, ingenuity and organization that made him such an attractive college coaching candidate despite a 5-15 record with the Raiders.

This is the point in the recruiting process when most minds have been made up and few can be changed. While that may not bode well for Tennessee converting many visitors this weekend, it may work in its favor in regards to the five soft commitments the Vols currently count toward the Class of 2009.

High value offensive talent — receiver JeRon Stokes, running back David Oku, running back Damien Thigpen and imposing O-lineman Aubrey Phillips — that could make an early impact is at stake. The fifth kind-of-committed is linebacker D.T. Shackelford. Collectively, that's nearly 28 percent of the prospects committed to Tennessee.

Now if Tennessee is anticipating a mass defection of soft commitments you couldn't discern it from deportment. If anything the Vols appear to be paring down more than revving up. How closely that is related to having hidden assets otherwise known as "silent commitments" is pure speculation, but recent actions indicate the Vols are confident heading into the homestretch and are trying to improve their hand rather than drawing to make a hand.

The focus this weekend is on offensive talent particularly skill players, although a pair of standout O-lineman are expected in Brandon Moore and Marcus Hall. The Vols will also take a shot at a couple of linebackers in Tana Patrick and Jonathan Evans, as well as No. 7 defensive end Sam Montgomery.

The biggest names belong to wide receivers Marlon Brown, Pat Patrick and Kendall Kelly as well as tight end Orson Charles who lists Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Southern Cal and Tennessee as his finalists.

There is still some information that hints at a visit by No. 2 running back Trent Richardson, but the addition of RB Eddie Lacy could be a concession that such a visit won't happen since both backs are considered Alabama leans.

Perhaps the most significant theme among the visitors tentatively slated to be on campus this weekend is the Alabama connection. Besides Lacy and Richardson the Crimson Tide is contending for in-state prospects Kelly, Moore and Tana Patrick. Evans is also an Alabama native committed to Auburn.

No one could accuse Lane Kiffin of backing away from a challenge.


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