War of ‘09 Enters Overtime

Rejoice recruiting gurus, the so-called second season has gone to overtime and Tennessee is still in the battle for a quartet of top prospects that could boost what has already been a surprisingly good campaign under the direction of neophyte head coach Lane Kiffin and his staff of renown.

In years past there has been the occasional straggler, maybe a hopeless indecisive prospect or two, but by and large national signing day has been both the finish line for one recruiting year and the starting line for the next.

The Vols got a great start to the 2010 campaign by gaining a commitment from linebacker Jacques Smith of Chattanooga-Ouoltewah, who is regarded as the state's best prospect and projects as a top 20 prospect in the Class of 2010. Essentially Smith is the five-star prospect that eluded UT on national signing day.

Tennessee has been proactive in its approach to recruiting the Class of 2010. In fact UT is believed to have already extended as many as 50 offers to next year's class. Kiffin's crew will build on the great start Smith's commitment gives Tennessee, but the Vols ar aiming for an even stronger finish to the Class of 2009. That could be provided if one or more of the fantastic four — Kwame Geathers, David Oku, Bryce Brown, Orson Charles — chooses the Big Orange.

UT hosted visits from Geathers and Brown over the last five days, but no officials commitments have been forthcoming. Geathers has since announced his intent to consider his options further before signing. While that's atypical of prospects this deep into the process, it's something of a family tradition for the Geathers. Older brothers Clifton and Robert waited until after signing day to ink with South Carolina and Georgia, respectively.

Charles didn't draw out the process purposely instead it was caused by a combination of factors. He was still involved in his high school's playoff run into December and he waited to take his ACT. The NCAA requires a prospect to pass either the ACT or SAT in order to accept an official visit. He takes his last official visit to USC next weekend. He is deciding between the Trojans, Georgia, Florida, Florida State and Tennessee. The Vols are generally regarded as the dark horse for Charles' services, but remain hopeful of an upset on the order of Ku'Nesse Richardson.

Brown has maintain a relatively low profile during the process. He is a soft verbal to Miami, where his brother Arthur is a freshman linebacker. He has also visited Clemson and Oregon and has some interest in Kansas State, LSU and USC. The five-star tailback hails from Wichita.

Oku is a particularly curious case. He was committed to Tennessee up to January when he took an official visit to Syracuse followed by another to Auburn. He's expected to choose between those programs and UT, but when an announcement will take place remains unknown. Speculation places the Vols last in a three-team race despite having an offensive system that fits his strengths.

In the short term the choices of these three players could impact team rankings for the 2009 recruiting campaign with No. 15 Auburn, No. 16 Ole Miss, No. 18 MIssissippi State, No. 20 Arkansas, No. 21 Tennessee and No. 22 Florida all bunched together.

It goes to underscore patience is a vigil.

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