February 2, 2011

Dooley on closing strong and holding on

Recruiting is all about optimism, but even with that in mind, the fantastic finish that Derek Dooley and his staff engineered in the stretch drive to National Signing Day exceeded all but the wildest expectations. Tennessee's momentum in the final days began on Monday night with Byron Moore's commitment and steamrolled into Wednesday morning with the addition of top-target Antonio Richardson to class.

In all Dooley and the Vols signed 27 prospects in the class, six of whom--Justin Worley, Vincent Dallas, Brendan Downs, Mack Crowder, Justin Coleman and Marcus Jackson--have already enrolled in classes and are on campus.

It's a tribute to Dooley and his staff that there were no 'bad surprises' for the Vols on Signing Day, and the only real drama of the morning was whether or not Tennessee would keep the state's top prospect at home.

Richardson ended that suspense and put a smile on faces throughout Big Orange Country when he picked up a Tennessee hat and announced his intentions at Pearl-Cohn High School this morning.

Keeping the nation's No. 7 offensive tackle inside the borders--fending off challenges from Georgia, Auburn and USC in the process--was a big get for any number of reasons. Not the least of which was Dooley making a statement about the viability of the program to the state's top high school talent, a statement that was reinforced by landing Richardson and Cameron Clear, the top two prospects in the state.

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