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Will Dooley’s Firing Boost Tennessee’s Recruiting?

A coaching change will always make an immediate impact on recruiting.

Tennessee announced Sunday that Derek Dooley will no longer be the Vols’ head coach. With a bowl game no longer a possibility for 4-7 Tennessee, fans’ thoughts immediately turned to recruiting. How will prospects react?

The truth is Tennessee’s recruiting for the 2013 class has been struggling. There was the “hot seat” talk of the offseason that put the Vols behind most of their SEC competition. The exit of seven assistant coaches and continued struggles on the field only made matters worse this fall.

Tennessee’s current class ranks no better than ninth in the SEC if you look at the major recruiting services (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports). Expect that to change after a new head coach is announced.

That’s because top-level prospects were weary of committing to Dooley when it looked like he would no longer be Tennessee’s coach. His replacement should be able to bring confidence back to the recruiting trail.

Vonn Bell from Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Ga., is one example. The highly-touted safety has been considering Tennessee, Alabama and Ohio State. He grew up a Tennessee fan but was concerned about Tennessee’s future under Dooley.

The Vols have plenty of time to make up ground with Bell, according to Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis.

“Vonn is just going to wait to see what happens with the coaching search at Tennessee,” Mariakis told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “He has said he won’t do anything more with the recruiting process until after our season.”

Florida State linebacker commit E.J. Levenberry from Woodbridge, Va., has long been impressed by Tennessee. But the Vols stopped recruiting Levenberry when Sal Sunseri replaced Justin Wilcox as defensive coordinator.

Renewed interested from Tennessee could put the Vols back in the running for Levenberry.

“Only other school that he is interested in,” Levenberry’s father, Eric Levenberry, told ESPN RecruitingNation.

Tennessee will have to work to hold on to its 18 commitments. But the truth is several of those prospects don’t have great options elsewhere.

Some commitments to watch include defensive tackle Ben Bradley, defensive end Jason Carr and wide receiver Paul Harris.

Keeping all 18 commitments will be difficult. But replacing some of them will be easier than most realize.


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