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Vols land WR Rogers, DE Miller on signing day

John Moorehouse • Feb 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM

After a whirlwind start to his coaching tenure at Tennessee, Derek Dooley’s vision of the Volunteers football program is taking shape.

Dooley crossed off two significant issues on his to-do list Wednesday. Justin Wilcox officially was hired from Boise State as the new defensive coordinator and the Vols wrapped up their first signing class under their new coach.

Counting the eight players who enrolled at Tennessee last month, the Vols’ 2010 recruiting class consists of 25 players. The boost provided by several touted late additions has UT’s cumulative haul ranked ninth in the country by Rivals.com. Scout had the Vols with the 15th-best class, while ESPN ranked Tennessee 11th.

Not bad for a guy who’s been on the job for less than three weeks.

“It’s sort of an understatement to say the program was in a little bit of a fragile state,” Dooley said, adding “It’s certainly challenging when you have to go sell a program in two weeks. You’re never going to get someone to trust you in a week or two. We were battling relationships formed in February of last year. I’m ecstatic that we are where we are right now.”

Tennessee’s class is headlined by wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers — considered the No. 9 prospect in the entire nation by Rivals.com and one of five players in Rivals’ top 100 that signed with the Vols. The others were receiver Justin Hunter (No. 75), defensive ends Corey Miller (No. 66) and Jacques Smith (No. 80) and offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James (No. 55).

Not that Dooley talked up the ratings of any of Rocky Top’s new recruits in his news conference in Knoxville on Wednesday evening.

“There’s no way I can sit here and project how good these guys are going to be two, three years from now,” Dooley said.

As precedent, the only football coach in the Southeastern Conference who holds a law degree cited Tennessee’s 2007 recruiting class, which was ranked as high as third in the nation.

“Today we’ve got about 53 percent of these guys still on the roster,” Dooley said. “It ought to tell you what’s really important.

“If we could project it that well, we wouldn’t make the mistakes we do as coaches,” the coach added. “It’s the human element. It’s the hard wiring inside you that you can never project.”

Dooley went with a few guys who flew under the radar. The “sleepers” in the class include outside linebacker Raiques Crump and defensive end Martaze Jackson, a pair of two-star recruits from Alabama.

James, Miller and Smith were among the eight early enrollees who were slated to begin class on Jan. 13 — mere hours after Lane Kiffin bolted Rocky Top to take over at Southern Cal. The late coaching move put the program, and its recruiting efforts, into turmoil.

Dooley, a former recruiting coordinator at LSU under Nick Saban, retained several of the players who verbally committed under Kiffin. He also secured late additions like Rogers, Hunter and offensive lineman James Stone, a well-regarded prospect from the Nashville area.

Stone, who spurned national champion Alabama to sign with UT, did not seriously consider his in-state school when Kiffin and Ed Orgeron were on the staff.

“Now I feel I will be comfortable with the leadership and I’ll be able to really grow as a person,” Stone told The Tennessean.

Likewise, Rogers said he was “not so interested” in the Vols when the previous coaching staff was in place. “Coach Dooley talked about building a brand and I liked that,” said Rogers, whose teammate and quarterback Nash Nance also signed with the Vols.

Curiously, Stone and Smith are the sole in-state prospects in the 2010 class. Six of Tennessee’s 25 signees hail from Georgia.

The Vols signed four receivers and four offensive linemen. In August, Nance will join the competition for the vacant starting quarterback job. The other two signal callers in the class — Matt Simms and Tyler Bray — enrolled early and will participate in spring practice alongside returnees Nick Stephens and Nick Lamaison.

Dooley also discussed the hiring of the 33-year-old Wilcox, who ran Chris Petersen’s defense at Boise State for four seasons. The Broncos went 49-4 in that span.

“I played against him for three years, I watched his teams play, watched every game he’s ever coached,” said Dooley, who competed against Boise in the Western Athletic Conference during his three-year stint as head coach at Louisiana Tech. “The best resume for a coach is the film.”

Dooley said he had no timetable on filling the remaining vacancy on his staff. Chuck Smith, a former Vol with experience as a defensive line coach in the NFL, has been rumored for quite some time as a candidate.

There’s also still a chance Tennessee could sign another player or two.

Florida’s signing class was the consensus No. 1 choice of the various recruiting services.

University of Tennessee Football Signees

• John Brown, DL, 6-2, 285, Lakeland, Fla. (Northeast Mississippi C.C.)

Rivals 4-star; Scout 4-star

• Dave Clark, DB, 6-2, 190, Baton Rouge, La. (Independence C.C.)

Rivals 4-star; Scout 3-star

• Raiques Crump, LB, 6-2, 220, Adamsville, Ala. (Minor)

Rivals 2-star; Scout 2-star

• Marcques Dixon, Athlete, 5-10, 195, Decatur, Ga. (Southwest Dekalb)

Rivals 3-star; Scout 3-star

• Zach Fulton, OL, 6-5, 315, Homewood, Ill. (Homewood-Flossmoor)

Rivals 3-star; Scout 3-star

• Justin Hunter, WR, 6-5, 180, Virginia Beach, Va. (Ocean Lakes)

Rivals 4-star; Scout 4-star; 75th in Rivals’ rankings; Named to ESPNU 150

• Martaze Jackson, LB, 6-2, 225, Demopolis, Ala. (Demopolis)

Rivals 3-star; Scout 2-star

• Eddrick Loften, DB, 6-0, 200, Irving, Texas (Nimitz)

Rivals 4-star; Scout 3-star

• Nash Nance, QB, 6-3, 215, Calhoun, Ga. (Calhoun)

Rivals 2-star; Scout 3-star

• Rajion Neal, RB, 5-11, 215, Tyrone, Ga. (Sandy Creek)

Rivals 4-star, Scout 3-star

• Marques Pair, OL, 6-6, 275, Sumter, S.C. (Sumter)

Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star

• Michael Palardy, PK, 6-0, 170, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Rivals 3-star, Scout 4-star

• John Propst, LB, 6-1, 220, Hoover, Ala. (Hoover)

Rivals 3-star, Scout 4-star

• Mychal Rivera, TE, 6-4, 250, Van Nuys, Calif. (College of the Canyons)

Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star

• Da'Rick Rogers, WR, 6-3, 215, Calhoun, Ga. (Calhoun)

Rivals 5-star, Scout 5-star, 9th in Rivals’ rankings; named to ESPNU 150

• Dontavis Sapp, DB, 6-3, 205, Valdosta, Ga. (Valdosta)

Rivals 2-star, Scout 2-star

• James Stone, OL, 6-4, 295, Nashville, Tenn. (Maplewood)

Rivals 4-star, Scout 3-star

Early Enrollees(will be eligible for spring practice)

• Tyler Bray, QB, 6-6, 190, Kingsburg, Calif. (Kingsburg)

Rivals 4-star; Scout 3-star; Named to ESPNU 150

• Channing Fugate, Athlete, 6-2, 225, Jackson, Ky. (Breathitt County)

Rivals 3-star; Scout 3-star

• Ja'Wuan James, OL, 6-6, 290, Suwanee, Ga. (North Gwinnett)

Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star; 55th in Rivals rankings; Named to ESPNU 150

• Ted Meline, WR, 6-3, 170, Miami, Fla. (North Miami Senior)

Rivals 3-star, Scout 4-star

• Corey Miller, DL, 6-4, 230, Wellford, S.C. (Byrnes)

Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star; 66th in Rivals rankings; Named to ESPNU 150

• Matt Milton, WR, 6-6, 200, Mascoutah, Ill. (Mascoutah)

Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star

• Matt Simms, QB, 6-3, 215, Franklin Lake, N.J. (El Camino C.C.)

Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star

• Jacques Smith, DL, 6-3, 235, Ooltewah, Tenn. (Ooltewah)

Rivals 4-star, Scout 5-star; 80th in Rivals rankings

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