Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and his staff made an unforgettable impression on some of the Southeast’s top college prospects on Saturday.
More than 100 high school players, including several of Georgia’s elite prospects, attended Tennessee’s Junior Day. Things started off rather routine. “It was just like your normal Junior Day, with coaches and other people from the college talking,” Brookstone tight end Brian Vogler said. “You could see heads bobbing, with eyes falling a little bit. But the second they split us up from the parents, it got so much more intense.”
The prospects were led to the film room, where Kiffin thanked the recruits for making the trip and considering the Volunteers. “Then this other coach [assistant] got up there and said that Tennessee takes special teams very seriously, that it’s a big key to winning,” recalled Northview defensive lineman Denzel McCoy, who has 31 early scholarship offers.
“That coach said they get real fired up on special teams and yelled for everybody to ‘Get up, get on your feet, and get fired up about special teams.’ Then this other coach ripped off his shirt Superman style. It was crazy.”
Many in the crowd weren’t sure how to react. “The coaches told us to stand up, but nobody really knew what to do. We started clapping, sort of like one of those ‘Ah, this feels awkward’ kind of things,” Vogler said. “The coaches yelled ‘OK, we’re going to give you another shot. We’ve leaving the room. When we come back in here, we want it really to get crazy.’”
Douglass defensive lineman Garrison Smith said the lights in the room dimmed. “This one coach stayed behind and walked to the side of the room. Then he kept slamming the [side] doors, as if the other assistant coaches were trying to break it down. It was like an angry dog or some wild animals were on the other side.”
After a few moments, Smith said the doors swung open and the Tennessee assistants ran into the room. “By now, three or four coaches had their shirts ripped off.” Smith said around 10 Tennessee players, including All-America defensive back Eric Berry of Atlanta and quarterback Jonathan Crompton, ran down from behind the recruits to meet the coaches on the floor. “Eric and the rest of the players were chanting ‘U-T, wild boys … U-T, wild boys … U-T wild boys.’” This time, prospects left their seats and joined the celebration. “We were all jumping up and down together, it was cool,” McCoy said.
After things appeared to calm down, Tennessee recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron gave a rousing pep talk, which caused the whole scene to repeat itself, only more intense. “The last time, everybody was hyped up and feeling it,” Loganville tailback Storm Johnson said. “People were jumping all over the place. It was rocking. You should’ve seen it. Even the podium got knocked over.”
All four of the players said they never saw Lane Kiffin lose his shirt. “He was on the side, just watching and smiling,” Vogler said.
The action-packed introduction pleased the prospects, which each said they had never heard or seen anything like it before. “I talked to some of the Tennessee players afterwards, and they said they had never heard or seen anything like that before when they were recruits and visited colleges,” Vogler said with a laugh.
McCoy: “Personally, I liked it … It was kind of crazy, but it was cool. Coach Kiffin is trying to get everyone fired up about Tennessee football, and it worked. He had everyone in that room fired up.”
Smith: “I loved it, especially when that coach ripped off his shirt like The Incredible Hulk. It was high intensity. I enjoyed the whole day. They [Tennessee] definitely moved up on my list.”
Vogler: “It was awesome. I didn’t know how to react at first. I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, these people are crazy.’ Then after talking to them later in the day, I realized that’s just their style. That’s how they go.”
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