Gettin' the Jimmy's & Joe's

Jon Gruden

To get an in-depth look at Tennessee football recruiting, sign in or subscribe now to read this story from InsideTennessee's recruiting analyst as we take a look a the ability of some of the top candidates to take over in Knoxville to sign some of the country's top talent.

The chicken or the egg? The debate rages on. In the world of college football, is it coaches or players that lead to victories?

In the Southeastern Conference, the debate is lessened as it's more than obvious that it takes a combination to maintain a steady stream of wins and bowl appearances.

The bios of the top coaching candidates to replace Derek Dooley at Tennessee are linked in the InsideTennessee Hot Board. But, what do some of these guys bring to the table in the world of recruiting?

Tennessee already lost its top-rated player on the commit list — Kameron Miles. A tip of the hat is in order for Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff for presenting the scholarship offer and pursuing the flip at the exact right time with Tennessee on its way down and the Aggies fresh off a victory over then-No. 1 Alabama.

Offensive tackle Dan Skipper is among the 15 or so remaining that is receiving the full-court press by schools attempting to orchestrate a flip, including a Stanford team that's taken down Oregon and USC this fall while the Vols are set to enter the winter with a losing record.

As described in the NCAA football recruiting calendar, six in-person off-campus contacts per prospective student-athlete are permitted from Nov. 25-Feb. 2. Hitting the airports and highways in droves during that time is imperative for schools, especially those that don't have bowl practices or a game to showcase the organization.

Here is a look at some of prospective head coaches, what they bring to the table and how they could close strong before that Feb. 2 date hits.

Jon Gruden

Why is Big Orange Country so enamored with a head coach that hasn't worked on the collegiate level since 1991? For starters, name recognition and superstar-like status from his time with the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Monday Night Football.

Unless somebody snatches up Sean Payton or strangles a Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy out of retirement, Gruden will be able to tell a recruit what no head coach in NCAA football can: "I led an NFL team to a Super Bowl victory. You know what it feels like to be World Champions? I do."

On the heels of a statement like that, guiding the Vols to a BCS National Championship may seem relatively simple.

Given that Gruden, 49, has the ring of all rings earned with Brad Johnson as his quarterback and Michael Pittman as his lead runner, suffice it to say Gruden brings a schematic upper hand to the offensive side of the ball perhaps never seen before on The Hill. That notion could prove fruitful in recruiting potential early NFL Draft entrees Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Ja'Wuan James and Cordarrelle Patterson back for their senior seasons.

Numerous question marks surround the staff Gruden would assemble, but his background could yield former Pro Bowlers (aside from those that are former Vols) frequenting campus — a head-turning scene for teenagers.

Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong's ties throughout the South could come in handy at Tennessee.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Surrounded by ACC and SEC schools, leading talented recruits to a Big East program isn't exactly an easy sell. However, if the Cardinals can finish with victories over UConn and Rutgers, they will find themselves in a BCS bowl game. That's saying a lot for a school that was 15-21 prior to Strong's arrival.

He's done it with his ties all across the South, which he picked up in his 27 years as an assistant, including stops at Florida, Notre Dame and South Carolina. Pulling former FOX Sports NEXT four-star quarterback Teddy Bridewater in 2011 and four-star linebacker Keith Brown last year, both out of the Miami area, show Strong can assemble talent in even the most recruiting saturated regions. Likely joining Strong wherever he is would be defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt, who has a plaque as one recruiting services's national recruiter of the year hung on the office wall.

Looking more immediately at Tennessee's 2013 class, flipping Louisville native and NEXT No. 3 defensive end Jason Hatcher away from USC might be a simple task.

Jimbo Fisher

Most peg Fisher's relationship with Tennessee director of athletics Dave Hart as why he's on the IT Hot Board, even though he's a few wins away from possibly playing for a BCSNC with Florida State.

Should the Seminoles make it to that game, Fisher will enter the realm of the elite instead of unproven. Elite status in NCAA ball means seven-figure pay raises either at your current position or your next stop. It remains to be seen who's at the top of Hart's list, but a pursuit of Fisher is sure to land him in Knoxville or making bank in Tallahassee.

In arguably the most talent rich state in the union, Florida State has the swagger appeal with recruits down that way. That begs the question: Can Fisher recruit without having FSU to sell? Ask men like Lance Thompson and Sal Sunseri how tough it is to win recruiting battles for elite prospects while coaching on The Hill. Without a stack of orange, signature wins on the national stage on the résumé, it can be most difficult.

Al Golden

Coach speak in terms of recruiting encircles wanting to "put a fence" around their home state. One Tennessee coach after another has at least said they want to do so in the Volunteer State. While the Power T doesn't carry the weight it did several years ago with teenagers, it still rings the minds of their head coaches that understand the tradition on The Hill.

Al Golden has been able to get five-star talent like Duke Johnson (pictured) to stay in Miami.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
If there's a prospective guy on the IT Hot Board that thoroughly understands this concept, it should be Golden, who has the lower region of the Sunshine State at his fingertips at his current post at Miami. He's done a solid job in keeping talent from that area signing up as 'Canes. However, it's a similar argument as with Fisher in that The U is going to always attract no matter who the coach is. Nevertheless, Golden signed NEXT five-stars Tracy Howard and Duke Johnson in the 2012 class.

Tennessee has had a decorated list of linebackers coaches from aspects of both teaching the game and recruiting. Golden's linebackers coach currently is Michael Barrow, whose name has been rumored around Knoxville with previous vacancies. Getting Barrow to leave Miami wouldn't be a small feat as he was once a 'Cane himself. However, as we've seen with assistants like Jay Graham and Peter Sirmon, having DI and NFL experience go a long way with prep stars that believe they have skills to one day get to the pros.

Tommy Tuberville

Understanding the landscape of the SEC is one advantage that gives Tuberville's candidacy a leg up on some others. Stops at Ole Miss and Auburn allowed for extensive relationship building throughout the South. Like Strong, Tubbs has had ties to South Florida for years from his days coaching at Miami. Now that he's in Lubbock and consistently loading a roster full of Texans, his contacts have expounded.

Tennessee tried to flip Christian Brothers (Tenn.) end/linebacker Chase Robison close to National Signing Day this year, but Tech was able to circle the wagons and hold onto Robison. Whether the Vols cooled on him or the Tech staff's relationship with the young man won out is hard to say, but they took on an SEC school in its back yard and came out on top.

Keeping the core of the 2013 class together and topping it off with quality signees won't be an easy task. If offensive line coach Sam Pittman is brought back, the three commits and Reeve Koehler will all be Volunteers. Pittman's best chance of staying in Knoxville, which is his preference, is if Tubbs is the man.

Another likely staff member heading to Rocky Top would be assistant defensive line coach Robert Prunty, who has won Big 12 recruiter of the year each of the last two seasons. Prunty helped develop former Vols Jon Hefney, Antonio Reynolds and Brent Vinson during their time at Hargrave Military Academy. Prunty learned under former Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis while the two were at Alabama A&M in the late '80s. Prunty has numerous connections in Virginia, which is a hotbed of talent that Tennessee must tap into if it's going to raise the talent level on the 85-man.

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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