The Hay Is Now In The Barn

Yes, today is Super Bowl Sunday, not a college football day. It is the day that American sport is showcased to the world. But the players playing in icy Dallas this evening started their national football careers long ago, when they donned a hat in the now-common symbolic gesture of signage. For most, the fame began on a National Signing Day a few years ago.

And that thought reminded me that it was time to reflect on this past week’s NSD, that tidy little orange bow on Derek Dooley’s first full-year efforts in the nasty necessary game of recruiting.

Tennessee’s 2011 Signing Class comprises 28 youngins. Seven are from the Volunteer state; whereas most of them hail from Florida or Georgia. A resounding 16 are rated with 4 stars by one or more of the top three recruiting ranking services: Scout.com, Rivals.com, and ESPN.

Nationally, this class ranks 11th, 12th, and 13th from these three organizations. Arguably, the strengths of Dooley and Company’s first full-time recruiting spoils lie in the secondary and offensive line – great places to fortify.

Some folks I’ve read are disappointed, pointing to a “big name” like Gabe Wright putting on the hat with a color other than light orange. That was seen as a sputtering stop to Dooley’s first attempt at building a powerhouse.

But the young Mr. Wright went to Auburn – you know, that school that just won the national championship. Our day will come when potential Vols like Wright will do more than just wax respectively of the Vols program as he did in his speech on NSD. That day will be only after we have established ourselves on the field by having a winning season and defeating opponents of the likes of a Florida or Alabama.

Then, we will be able to sign the holy grail-level recruit. That day is coming.

Until then, we must continue to build, step by step. This year’s hay is now in the barn, ready to feed the seemingly unquenchable thirst of the Vol Nation. Whether the Vols will be knocking on the door of the SEC championship in the next two or three years is uncertain. But one thing is almost a sure bet – this 2011 recruiting class will not bolt for greener pastures.

These young men have come to Dooley’s first real recruiting class and into our family for the right reasons, not for the bling that was flashed a couple of years ago, leaving a tarnished trail of flamed-out hopes.

These young men are going to be winners in Knoxville before their next signing day – the one that comes with dollars and dreams of a Super Bowl trophy.

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