Recruiting season is in full swing in Knoxville, Tennessee. It's an unfortunate benefit of a sub-standard season, and while it's in nobody's best interest for me to recount the horrors of Tennessee football in 2011, it's in everybody's best interest for Tennessee to finish strong with the Class of 2012.
On Friday, the Vols received their 22nd commitment of the 2012 class from JUCO defensive back, Otis Jacobs. Ranked as a three-star and one of the nation's Top 50 junior college players, Jacobs puts the Vols into 10th place in the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings.
However, on the heels of a 5-7 season, the Vols will have to pound the pavement in order to hold onto their current commits and, of course, to add to the Class of 2012. Unfortunately, the numbers game appears to be a palpable issue as the Vols push towards National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
NCAA and SEC regulations state that a team can only sign 25 prospects beginning this February, and as mentioned, the Vols are currently sitting on 22 verbal commitments. Even more concerning, is that the Vols don't currently have room to sign all 22 of their commits.
A certain amount of attrition is expected from year-to-year in college football, but in order for the Vols to be able to sign a full class the University of Tennessee will have to shed the weight of nine current scholarship players on their roster. That's a significant number for a team that isn't transitioning a coaching staff, and it leads to the question, will people be asked to hit the road?
There is no doubt that a few players are bound to leave on their own terms, but it is plausible that Derek Dooley will ask players to leave. It's a less than ideal situation, and oversigning has been a significant issue, specifically in the SEC. That being said, it's also become an accepted practice in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Tennessee is currently in the thick of it with several big-time athletes from the high school and JUCO ranks (especially the JUCO ranks), and it's fairly clear that the talent on the current roster isn't exactly getting it done.
Between now and Signing Day, the Vols will likely lose a few current commitments, but it's difficult to imagine a situation where they don't wind up signing a full haul. With the momentum of adding four-star WR Alton "Pig" Howard, three-star TE Justin Meredith, and Jacobs, the Vols are surging towards the finish line, and they're still in the thick of it with the likes of JUCO DT's Darrington Sentimore and Daniel McCullers.
They're also involved with a number of other JUCO stars (with an obvious emphasis on players who can contribute immediately) highlighted by the nation's number one junior college player, Cordarrelle Patterson.
Tennessee is going to make plenty of recruiting news in the next six weeks, but perhaps the more important news will come from the home-front. Where will Tennessee find the space for this talented class?
It's a situation that Derek Dooley and the staff will have a close eye on, and it's one that the fans should pay close attention to, as well.