JaWuan James returns to Tennessee as Vols assess damage
Big JaWuan James of North Gwinnett is back on Rocky Top after nearly a week of indecision. (Chip Towers)
It will take a few years to assess the damage Lane Kiffin caused the Tennessee football program with this selfish antics. But the initial blast to recruiting seems to be over and certainly wasn’t as devastating as it could have been.
Heading into last week the Vols had 22 commitments and a No. 6 national ranking. As of Monday evening they had lost five commitments. And gone are some really good ones.
Ahmad Dixon of Waco, Texas, was a five-star safety, according to Scout.com. DE Delvin Jones, DT Calvin Smith, Atlanta LB Michael Taylor and DE Brandon Willis all drew four-star ratings. Those guys have either committed or enrolled somewhere else or plan to.
But thanks to the quick hiring of new coach Derek Dooley, UT has managed to talk some high-profile prospects off the ledge and gotten them to stick . . . for now at least.
Several major prospects have elected to stay on, including North Gwinnett offensive tackle JaWuan James. James left Knoxville last Thursday to return home to Suwanee to counsel with his family and gather his bearings. According to his high school coach, Bob Sphire, James returned to UT over the weekend and he began classes Monday (James has not answered multiple messages since last Wednesday).
Other Tennessee recruits of local interest:
- Henry County wide receiver Markeith Ambles also has shut down. Currently he is listed as a “soft verbal” for Tennessee. Keith Ambles, his father, confirmed his son skipped an official visit to Knoxville this past weekend in order go to North Carolina instead. But Mr. Ambles said his son remains committed to the Vols and may visit Knoxville this weekend.
- DT J.C. Copeland of Troup is also leaning toward sticking with Vols. “I’m still pretty set on Tennessee,” he told me Monday. “I’m going to take some more visits to explore my options. But I’m leaning toward sticking with Tennessee right now.” Copeland said he has a visit to South Carolina scheduled for Jan. 29. He said he spoke to Dooley briefly on the phone Sunday night.
- CB Marcques Dixon, Southwest DeKalb, said he is “about 95 percent sure that UT is where I want to be.” But Dixon is also keeping his options open. He plans to visit Miami on Jan. 29.
- Two other players that initially planned to leave — four-star DE Jacques Smith and JUCO DT John Brown (a former five-star prospect and Florida signee) — now say they’re going to stick it out.
Typically similar scenarios in which a coach bolts amid controversy in just a year or so, the football programs have been set back competitively for several years. In fact, the Wall Street Journal just did a story on that and did not paint a pretty picture. Here are some of the examples cited:
- Steve Mariucci, California (1996) — 8-25 (.242) next three seasons.
- Guy Morriss, Kentucky (2001-02) — 9-25 (.265) next three seasons.
- Howard Schnellenberger, Oklahoma (1995) — 12-22 (.353) next three seasons.
- Dennis Erickson, Washington State (1987-88) — 13-20 (.394) next three seasons.
- Lou Holtz, Minnesota (1984-85) — 14-18-2 (.441) next three seasons.
- Dennis Franchione, Alabama (2001-02) — 20-17 (.541) next three seasons.
- David McWilliams, Texas Tech (1986) — 20-13-1 (.603) in next three seasons.