The Titans might have drafted collegiate wonderboy Vince Young, and basketball coach Bruce Pearl might have the Volunteers faithful wearing orange into March, but make no mistake: Tennessee is a football state -- the kind they play on Saturday.
Phil Fulmer and his Tennessee squad had an off year last season to say the least, going 5-6 (3-5 in conference) and finishing fourth in the SEC East. While some of the faithful may be restless and calling for his head, a better barometer to judge whether he's on the hot seat is how Tennessee is faring on the recruiting trail.
After another verbal commitment from a solid skill-position player this week in cornerback C.J. Fleming (Highland Springs, Va.), it's safe to say Fulmer and his staff still have the confidence of impact recruits. Fleming chose the Volunteers over in-state schools Virginia and Virginia Tech and out-of-state powerhouse Georgia.
ESPN 150 wide receiver Todd Campbell (Franklin, Tenn.) and top-30 running backs Daryl Vereen (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg) and Josh Hawkins (Loudon, Tenn.) round out the top end of Tennessee's class so far.
In-state ESPN 150 wide receiver Roderick Davis (Memphis/Wooddale), who has yet to commit, would also make a nice addition.Early signing period a bad move
I've been reading a lot lately about the implementation of an early signing period in football, the big reason because of players de-committing and not upholding their verbal commitment.
Despite the betrayal that comes when a recruit switches a commitment, coaches voted down the measure at a recent off-season AFCA meeting, and many coaches have continued to speak out against it because it could give an unfair advantage to the perennial powerhouse recruiting schools.
Smaller schools argue that these schools could fill out their scholarships early and then get a very early jump on the next class.
An early signing period for football is a bad idea, but it has a lot more to do recruits themselves.
High school kids can be influenced by a strong presentation, and they can easily change their minds when they hear another strong presentation. And they have the right to change their minds.
Sometimes verbal commitments are made hastily, like when a recruiter's pitch is so good that the prospect commits on the spot only to realize later that he may want to think about it.
Sometimes verbal commitments are made before the student-athlete has seen the campus he's committing to. And an early signing period, which in essence would put these verbal commitments in stone in August, would take official visits out of the mix.
Not every recruit has the time or money to make unofficial visits, so official visits are essential.
Take a look at what happened with ESPN 150 defensive tackle Torrey Davis (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), for example.
First, Davis verbally committed to Florida State without seeing the campus. Then he backed off his commitment, telling my colleague Craig Haubert that he was going to commit to them before his first game.
So, before his first game, Davis did as expected and made his announcement. For Florida.
"I always wanted Florida, they were my number one from day one," said Davis.
• Northwestern addressed tight end in a big way this week, nabbing verbal commitments from two top-25 tight end prospects, Drake Dunsmore (Overland Park, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) and big Josh Rooks (Holland, Mich./Holland Christian).
Both are solid blockers, but the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Rooks has the size to move to tackle if need be.
• J.R. Hemingway's (Conway, S.C.) verbal commitment to Michigan makes a lot of sense. The No. 3 wide receiver prospect will immediately challenge for playing time next year with the graduation of Steve Breaston and a 2-deep riddled with injury-prone players.
Henry Gola is recruiting editor for ESPN.com and Scouts Inc.
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