This would seem to prove success begets success and it bears out the adage, any publicity is good publicity, but it also shows the very real appeal of marrying a dynamic young head coach with a storied football program that is being renovated more than rebuilt. Add an NFL caliber coaching staff that is handpicked for its recruiting prowess, throw in a totally original father-son coaching relationship which reinforces the concept of family all programs try to sell to some degree, and you have a formidable force in the highly competitive arena of college football recruiting.
It might be easy to criticize Kiffin for being outspoken, but there's no denying the results which indicate there's method to his madness. No it's not "old school" as some of us old dudes too often say with solemn reverence. Neither is it the type of cliché coach speak that drives football fans to the point of madness. Well if you think fans get bored with hearing the same schlock for years piled upon years, image how quickly a top prospect tunes out a pitch that smacks of spin when he has a waiting list of elite programs vying for his attention.
As important as it is to detect and direct your pitch to a prospect's buying signals, it's even more about being the genuine article and building relationships. And as personal as the recruiting process is, most franchise type prospects are looking for a chance to play on a team that will compete for championships.
The fact Tennessee has been able to get the attention and the interest of so many good prospects to this point is a credit to KIffin & Co.'s powers of persuasion. And if they are able to turn that interest into visits the Vols will be well on their way to an even better 2010 signing class than what they had in 2009.
Much of that will depend on how Tennessee looks this fall, but up to now there hasn't been this much buzz on the recruiting trail about Big Orange football since 2005 when the Vols landed the nation's No. 1 signing class.
Currently the Vols are on the favorites list with the No. 1 quarterback prospect Jake Heaps, and No. 4 ranked QB Phillip Simms. They are vying for the services of Scout.com's No. 1 ranked center, Brandon Linder of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the No. 2 defensive tackle, Garrison Smith of Atlanta, Ga., and No. 3 ranked offensive tackle, James Hurst, of Plainsville, Ind.
In addition to having a commitment from Scout's No. 3 defensive end, the Vols are also solid contenders for No. 3 wide receiver Demnarco Cobbs, of Tulsa, Okla., No. 3 tight end Christian Thomas, of Palmsdale, Calif. and they are in the chase for No. 3 defensive tackle Cassius Marsh of West Lake Village, Calif. Kiffin's California connection is clear as six of the 20 prospects (top ten ranked) are from the Golden State while a combined seven of those prospects come from Florida and Georgia.
Perhaps the most compelling case for Kiffin's impact can be found among the top 150 prospects nationally as currently ranked by Scout.com. Tennessee is listed as a school of interest by 39 of those prospects. Last year at this time UT was listed with 14 of the nation's top 300 prospects nationally.
It should also be pointed out the Vols are enjoying this level of success while coming off a 5-7 season, and we haven't even reached the May evaluation period yet. That's a lot for Big Orange fans to crow about and a lot of crow for Kiffin critics to swallow.