Signing Day A Roller Coaster For Vols

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - by Kevin Connelly
It was supposed to be the calm before the storm.

Perhaps instead, the night before National Signing Day provided a sign of things to come as Butch Jones and his staff received some disappointing news.

Just before 9 p.m., highly sought-after linebacker E.J. Levenberry informed Tennessee he would be sticking by his commitment and sign with Florida State. He was one of eight players the new coaching staff was hoping to lure to Knoxville in the late stages of the recruiting year.


Still hours away from the time recruits could officially sign letters of intent with their school, and Vol fans already had a bitter taste in their mouth. However, there were still seven names out there ready to commit, the biggest one being Chattanooga native Vonn Bell.

As the sun began to rise on Feb. 6, so did the entire college football community anxiously awaiting the decisions of some of the top high school football players in the country. On Rocky Top however, it was more of a nervous anxiousness than anything else.

The day started with few surprises, as previously committed players began faxing in their letters of intent. Tight end A.J. Branisel and wide receiver Marquez North kicked things off around 7:30 a.m., followed by receiver Ryan Jenkins and quarterback Riley Ferguson.

Then shortly after 8 o’clock, Tennessee added two local kids when Knoxville’s Josh Smith and Kingsport’s Malik Foreman became official. Not long after, Jabo Lee’s letter came across the fax machine and the one-time East Carolina commitment was officially a Vol.

Next, the new staff added some size and strength as offensive linemen Dylan Weisman and Cleveland’s own Austin Sanders added their names to the incoming class.

It wasn’t until a few minutes after 8:30 that the Vols received their first new commitment, as defensive lineman Jaylen Miller officially pledged to Tennessee. That good news was immediately followed by defensive back Cameron Sutton, and then later by Knoxville’s Brett Kendrick, whose papers came through just before 10 o’clock.

Just a few hours into National Signing Day, Jones was able to add 12 commitments to his first recruiting class at Tennessee and, with the addition of the five players who enrolled early, the total number had grown to 17.

The next hour, however, proved to be the most pivotal. Defensive back Vonn Bell was scheduled to announce shortly after 10 o’clock. The first-year staff knew what it would mean to the program to get a five-star player, who grew up a Volunteer fan, to commit to them on national television.

Rumors were swirling and ‘experts’ everywhere were back-and-fourth between Tennessee and Ohio State as the final landing spot for Bell. In front of a large crowd gathered at Ridgeland High School, Bell broke the news and the hearts of the Vol Nation as he committed to play for Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Surely it was a tough pill to swallow for a recruiting class that lacked star-power in the rankings, and a headline name at the top of the class. However, the day was not over and there were still five more decisions to come.

Insistent on not letting the disappointing news keep them down, minutes later Coach Jones and his staff announced defensive lineman Jason Carr was the fifth four-star recruit to pledge to the Vols.

As the roller coaster of emotions rode on, quarterback Tyler Boyd decided he would honor his original commitment and play at Pittsburgh. Although the decision wasn’t as big of a shock as Bell’s, he was the second big-time player in almost 15 minutes to spurn the Vols.

With very little time to digest each decision, three-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs gave Tennessee its second signal caller of the class. He made a last minute switch from Arizona State to the Vols and was an important commitment for the fans' confidence.

Then the final verbal commitment of the class, Woody Quinn, made it official just before 11 a.m. to give Tennessee 20 commitments for the 2013 class.

With Georgia locking up Davin Bellamy and Auburn signing Johnathan Ford, the Vols had one more possible addition.

The morning turned to afternoon and at 12:13 p.m., the final name was added to the recruiting class as Malik Brown changed his mind, as well as his shade of orange.

The three-star defensive lineman flipped his commitment from Syracuse to Tennessee and in the process gave Butch Jones a total of 21 commitments at the end of a busy day.

Tennessee had 18 verbal commitments prior to National Signing Day. They end the day with 21. Everything that happened in between was just another day in the crazy world of college football.

kconnel1@utk.edu

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