Derek Dooley’s first Signing Day as a Volunteer is in the books.
Tennessee’s newest head football coach capped the program’s 2010 signing class on Wednesday night, officially signing 25 new additions to the UT roster.
“It wasn’t as hard as people think to go out there to convince some of these young men to come to Tennessee,” Dooley said at a Wednesday press conference. “It was just a matter of me getting in front of them and selling who I am and what I believe and selling our coaching staff and where we’re headed with the program.”
Two weeks after being introduced as Tennessee’s 22nd head coach, Dooley hit the road recruiting and was able to salvage a program that was bleeding recruits after the sudden departure of Lane Kiffin to Southern Cal on Jan. 12. Rivals.com credited Dooley’s class as the No. 9 class of 2010 on Wednesday, while Scout.com ranked the Vols’ class 15th in the nation.
“It’s certainly challenging when you have to go sell a program in two weeks,” Dooley said. “In recruiting, the relationships get formed, and we were battling relationships formed in February of last year. I’m ecstatic we are where we are.”
The jewel of the Vols’ 2010 class might be five-star wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers out of Calhoun, Ga. Rogers comes to Tennessee despite a lengthy previous commitment to Georgia. The 6-foot-3 wideout caught 22 touchdown passes as a senior en route to a Georgia state record of 1,641 receiving yards.
All four wide receiver signees boast four- or five-star rankings from Rivals.com. Justin Hunter of Virginia Beach, Va., Ted Meline of Miami and Matt Milton of Mascoutah, Ill., round out Dooley’s newest crop of wide receivers.
“I think every year, you’re always looking for game-changing, playmaking offensive weapons,” Dooley said. “Time will tell how good they’re going to be.”
Rogers’ teammate at Calhoun High School, quarterback Nash Nance, signed with Tennessee after a previous commitment to Vanderbilt. Nance joins a quarterback class which includes California native Tyler Bray and junior college standout Matt Simms, son of Super Bowl champion quarterback Phil Simms. Simms and Bray were two of UT’s eight midterm enrollees.
Four-star lineman James Stone out of Nashville headlines four offensive line signees looking to add depth to a line depleted by graduation. Ootlewah, Tenn., defensive lineman Jacques Smith comes to UT as the top-ranked high school recruit in Tennessee by Rivals.com.
“Certainly there’s a lot of reasons for a Tennessee high school player to come here,” Dooley said. “It’s just a matter of us selling it. Everything starts with your state, then you’ve got to build it from the inside out.”
Still, Dooley’s first class features six players from the state of Georgia, including Rogers and Rivals.com four-star running back Rajion Neal.
“We have to do a good job in the state of Georgia among other states,” Dooley said. “Very good football players come out of Georgia.”
Despite wrapping up two straight weeks of recruiting, Dooley admitted his job is just beginning.
“Today is really when the work begins in how we coach them, how we mentor them, how we develop them,” Dooley said. “... There are so many factors going into how well these guys end up performing for the university.”
Wilcox hired as defensive coordinator
Tennessee announced the hiring of Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox as the Vols’ new defensive coordinator on Wednesday.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Wilcox said in a statement released by Tennessee. “I’m really humbled to be considered and for coach Dooley to offer me the job.”
Wilcox, 33, spent the last four seasons heading Boise State’s defensive unit, leading the Broncos to a No. 14 ranking in total defense and scoring defense last season, as well as No. 3 in turnover margin.
Dooley, Vols ink 2010 signees
Published: Thu Feb 04, 2010