After a solid National Signing Day, the Tennessee Volunteers aren't waiting for five or six other high school students to commit to them as they have in past years. Instead, the Vols are merely targeting one Florida linebacker, Kenneth Bynum, who they hope will decide to ink with Tennessee and become the 21st and last player of the 2012 class.
There are names flying around the rumor mill ranging from Alabama center Kyron Samuels to a slew of JUCO-bound high schoolers (Samuels is likely headed there himself), but let it be known that Bynum is the lone remaining target for Derek Dooley and Tennessee. He is the only player to have visited Knoxville since Signing Day.
All Quiet on the Linebacker Front
As late as one month ago, the Vols thought they were in terrific shape with the linebacker position for the 2012 recruiting class. Rivals 3-stars Dalton Santos and Otha Peters had impressed everyone in the numerous high school All-Star games and had stayed true to Tennessee through it all.
Then Santos' beloved Texas Longhorns finally handed him an offer—likely because they missed out on a flashy 5-star—and he bolted. I'm honestly not bitter. I'd do the same for Texas and so would y'all.
But Peters' story was a bit weirder. After remaining steadfast in his commitment for months, a weekend trip to Arkansas changed his mind completely. Apparently, he felt that it would be easier to overcome Alabama and LSU in the SEC West than Georgia and the unusually weak Florida in the SEC East.
What was most disappointing?
Yeah, I'm more bitter with Peters.
Nevertheless, Dooley preaches that he wants his players to be completely committed to the program and become Vols for Life. If an offer a week before Signing Day or a last-second trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas can make you think that maybe Knoxville isn't your place.
Who Is Bynum?
After being committed to Cincinnati for some time, Bynum received a late offer from Tennessee, who was quickly trying to add a linebacker to their suddenly depleted class.
Luckily, the 3-star prospect from Raines High School in Jacksonville decided to wait. He visited the Knoxville campus on Monday, February 6th and said he would announce his decision on Thursday, February 9th.
Also an accomplished wrestler, Bynum has said he is happy to be nearing the end of the recruiting process so he can refocus his efforts on that:
I was really struggling yesterday. I talked to Coach Dooley and he said that I don’t have to commit to Tennessee on signing day. I’m ready to focus on that and winning a state title.
Tennessee will be happy if he signs with the Vols.
Bynum and the 2012 Season
If the Vols know anything, it's that a top-15 or even top-10 recruiting class means nothing unless you coach and develop the players once they're in uniform.
Failure to do so is what led to Phillip Fulmer's dismissal in 2008, and it could lead to Dooley's at the end of this year.
Dooley saved a recruiting class that Lane Kiffin started in 2010, recruited an excellent class in 2011 and brought in a third consecutive top-20 class this year after a career record at Tennessee of 11-14.
Imagine if the Vols could just start winning again!
While Bynum may not have an explosive impact in 2012, his successful recruitment would prove the kind of clout the Big Orange still carries around the country, especially among lower-tier schools.
The trick will be turning Bynum and his fellow teammates into a team that can help Tennessee regain that kind of prowess to compare not just with lower-tier schools but also with the SEC schools.
The clock is ticking on Bynum and Dooley.