It's Christmas Day, and Derek Dooley and his family are probably gathered around the tree in their West Knoxville home. It's a hectic time of year for Coach Dooley and the rest of the Volunteers staff with a December 30th bowl game on the docket and national signing day quickly approaching.
The wives of the coaches have likely taken care of most of the Christmas shopping this year, but that doesn't mean that Dooley and company don't have wish lists of their own.
It's not the kind of list you send to Santa, but each wish granted off this list for the next 40 days is bound to feel like Christmas revisited for the UT coaching staff.
Recruiting is where games are won and lost more often than not in the cutthroat world that is college football. This is especially true in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference, where the battles to gather talent from the fertile recruiting grounds that lie within the conferences boundaries is heated and sometimes downright ruthless.
Last season five of the top 10 and eight of the top 25 recruiting classes in the country were assembled by members of the SEC, according to Rivals.com. This season looks to be more of the same.
Currently, the University of Tennessee is listed at 22nd in Rivals' Class of 2011 team recruiting rankings. A ranking that is certainly respectable considering that there are 120 teams in the FBS.
However, a ranking that would place a team in the top 20 percent of the nation in recruiting places them in the bottom third within their own conference.
Yes, recruiting publications are relative and not the end-all-be-all of evaluating high school football talent, but there is little denying that the correlation between teams who recruit highly ranked players and those that win.
The Vols currently have 19 verbal commitments in the Class of 2011 and are likely looking at adding seven or eight more names to that list to fill out this class before National Signing Day on February 2nd.
This is Tennessee's recruiting big board in no particular order: