UT playing catch-up

There is some wailing and gnashing of teeth among a portion of the Tennessee football fan base because the Vols don't have a slew of early commitments for 2011.

Here's a word of advice for them: Chill.

First-year recruiting coordinator Terry Joseph says the Big Orange staff is still playing catch-up in the evaluation process and isn't pushing all that hard for a bunch of early commitments at this time.

"We want to get the guys committed that we want," he said. "We don't want to get early commitments from the wrong guys. That's where you can run into a gray area of 'Who is the right guy to take early?'"

Many of the elite prospects commit late in the recruiting process or wait until Signing Day. As a result, a lot of the guys who give pledges in the spring prior to their senior year are quality players but not necessarily difference-makers.

"We'll take what we call a 'core guy' early - a guy we feel can help us be a good team," Joseph said. "If we can get eight to 10 of those guys early, we'll be happy. Then we'll chase the game-changers later in the game. To get a bunch early, it has to be the right guys."

Because new head coach Derek Dooley was hired three weeks shy of National Signing Day, he didn't acquire the last two pieces of his staff - defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Chuck Smith - until February. By that time the Vols were way behind in evaluating prospects for their 2011 signing class. They're still making up for lost time.

"With our evaluation process and where we came in at (late), we're still in that process," Joseph said. "And that's why we're where we are (few commitments) right now."

With 2009 head man Lane Kiffin and staff bolting so close to National Signing Day, Tennessee's 2010 recruiting class could've crumbled. To their credit, Dooley and Company kept the defections to a minimum and managed to avert a disaster. That probably earned the new staffers some credibility.

"To the public it probably gave us a lot," Joseph conceded. "To the guys here on campus, it's over time. When we came in Coach said, 'Wait and see.' It's been a wait-and-see approach. Every day is a day to keep building.

"I think the trust is starting to get there, more and more each day. I think by the time we kick it off in September, everybody will be at a good comfort level and believing in each other."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories