Year number two always seems to be one of the more critical seasons for college football coaches in the SEC. Richt, Saban, Miles, Meyer, Chizik, and even Spurrier (at Florida) all took their teams to a BCS bowl in their second season with their current schools (except Spurrier as mentioned.)
So for Vols second year man Derek Dooley, the expectations are going to be high. And while it may not be reasonable to expect a BCS berth in 2011, Vol fans will be expecting marked improvement as many fans have set their eyes on 2012 as the year that the Vols will have an opportunity to re-establish itself atop the SEC East standings.
One key component to success in 2012, will be another successful recruiting haul for the Vols, specifically in a few key areas.
These are the Vols Top 5 recruiting needs for the Class of 2012:
No. 1 Defensive Tackle:
It's no secret that the Vols have been thin on the defensive interior for the past couple of seasons, and Dooley and company made late pushes in the Class of 2011 to sign another talented DT but came up empty handed. In 2012 it will be even more of a priority with the impending departure of standout DT Malik Jackson. The Vols have already extended double digit offers to DT's from across the nation, and that number will continue to climb as I estimate that the Vols will look to sign four to six big bodied defensive lineman.
No. 2 Linebacker:
LB was another major priority for the Vols in 2011 that they simply fell short on. They bypassed an opportunity to get into the picture for five-star C.J. Johnson who wound up committing to Mississippi State because they felt comfortable with their position with Lamar Dawson. When Dawson spurned the Vols in favor of Lane Kiffin and USC the Vols were left swaying in the wind and with the graduations of Daryl Vereen and Austin Johnson next season the Vols will need to add three or four linebackers in the Class of 2012.
No. 3 Running Back:
The Vols got lucky at the end of this past recruiting season when Marlin Lane essentially fell into their laps. They also added a quality back in Tom Smith, as well as a speedy all-purpose back in Devrin Young but with feature back Tauren Poole entering his senior season and the transfer of David Oku the Vols are going to need to add another back or two in this class.
No. 4 Tight End:
Even if you operate under the assumption that Cam Clear will be a tight end for the next four years, the Vols only have three scholarship tight ends for 2011. So at least one tight end in the Class of 2012 is a must, and if the staff thinks that Clear will grow into an OL then it may warrant taking two or three.
No. 5 Defensive End:
This is one area where a team can simply never have enough able bodies, because simply put, the ability to get pressure from the front four makes every defense exponentially better. Couple that with the fact that the Vols will lose Ben Martin following the 2011 season, and that Corey Miller will split time between DE and DT and you certainly could stand to add three or four more DE's in 2012.
(Honorable Mention) Quarterback:
I think that Derek Dooley and Jim Chaney would love to get into a rhythm where they would sign one quarterback during each signing class, but with the departure of Matt Simms after next season and the strength of the quarterbacks in the Class of 2012, I think it's possible that the Vols will take two if they can get the right guys.
Ryan Wooden is currently serving as a Recruiting Analyst for http://knoxvegasvols.com/. For more recruiting updates and Tennessee related content be sure to check it out. Also follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ryan_wooden