So Tennessee has dragged its feet a little in recruiting the class of 2012. The Vols currently have one four-star commit (Drae Bowles) and seven three-star commits. That's a pretty slow start for an SEC team.
In fact, it's one of the slowest starts in the SEC.
Despite this, there's no need to panic just yet. In fact, just worrying is uncalled for at this point, and here are five reasons why.
The first reason not to worry about recruiting at this point is because recruiting is far from over.
A lot of top prospects wait until the very last second to make a decision, and a lot of them change their minds at the last minute. Remember Da'Rick Rogers? Tennessee stole him away from Georgia at the very last second, and he ended up being Tennesee's top recruit that year.
The Vols' slow start could be just that: a start.
Derek Dooley managed to keep most of Kiffin's recruits when he came in as the new head coach, and last year he pulled in a class that was almost a top-10 class. Two good years in a row means he's far from finished. Expect Dooley to grab a few more four-stars and maybe a five-star or two before the year is over.
Of course, even if the guys we have right now are the best we get...
Players rise and fall through the Scout and Rivals rankings throughout the recruiting process. A classmate of my youngest brother was a four-star guard the entire year in 2010, but a poor showing in an All-State game dropped him to a three-star.
The opposite happens to a lot of kids too. Who knows, maybe Imani Cross blows up, gains 10 pounds and becomes the top-ranked running back prospect. It's unlikely, but things like that do happen, and it's quite possible Tennessee's staff sees something Scout and Rivals don't yet.
Of course, when rankings change, recruits will often change schools. Again, this could benefit Tennessee since other schools have commits who will reconsider where they're going and who might want to give Tennessee a chance.
It could hurt or help Tennessee's recruits, but one way or the other, it's highly unlikely that the current crop of recruits will be where they are now by the end of the year.
Just because you land five-star recruits doesn't mean they turn into the best players. In 2006, Sam Bradford was the fourth-ranked quarterback of his class. You might say, "Well he was still a highly-touted prospect, you can't expect them to get it completely right." True, but Tennessee signed one of the quarterbacks ranked ahead of him: Nick Stephens.
A good example of that is Boise State. Despite being ranked 76th in recruiting over the last 10 years, they are No. 1 in win percentage (89.8 percent). On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Florida State; sixth in recruiting, 36th in wins. Tennessee is almost as bad (tied for ninth in recruiting ranks, but 31st in wins).
So, remember, it's more about the coaching than the players. TCU regularly takes two-star recruits and turns them into well-oiled winning machines.
As far as coaching goes, remember Boise State (No. 1 in wins)? Their old defensive coordinator is now Tennessee's. So embrace the two and three-star recruits! Wilcox can turn them into winners.
Tennessee is going to have a good year this year—you heard it here first (or second, or maybe 53rd).
With an easy non-conference schedule and a SEC East that is more winnable than you might think, Tennessee could come away with eight or nine wins this year.
What does this have to do with recruiting?
It's simple: wins mean recruits.
If you don't believe me, just ask Auburn. After winning the National Championship, they recorded one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and winning the BCS National Championship definitely had something to do with that.
You don't have to win a National Championship, either.
Florida State didn't win their division, but they won nine games and a bowl, and pulled out maybe the best recruiting class in the country. Tennessee is recruiting kids right now on the promise of wins and the reminder of past glory. If the Vols exceed expectations this year, you better expect way more four and five-start recruits to come knocking.
You know what else recruits like? Teams that consistently get their players drafted in the first round.
It's a little early, but some of Tennessee's players are already considered solid first-round prospects or even prospects for the first overall pick.
With Malik Jackson and Tauren Poole coming in as seniors, and Prentiss Waggner and Janzen Jackson coming in as juniors, Tennessee could have a lot of players who go pretty early in the draft, and that would really help the recruiting process.
Ultimately, every recruit wants to play professional football, and they also want to be paid a lot of money to play professional football. When high school kids see that this team or that team produces players who get drafted high and often, it makes them want to play for that school.
So Tennessee may be off to a slow start with recruits, but it's way too early in the process to pass judgment. Given time, Tennessee will be just fine, regardless of what happens with the 2012 recruits.