published Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Safety Loften pledges to Vols


by Wes Rucker

KNOXVILLE -- Derek Dooley hasn't proven he can cultivate relationships and consistently recruit at a high level in the Southeastern Conference.

Tennessee's new head football coach is showing signs of being a strong closer, though.

Saturday, Dooley's eighth day at UT, featured his second public commitment from a four-star prospect.

Eddrick Loften, a safety from Irving, Texas, pledged to the Volunteers on Saturday. Four-star wide receiver prospect Justin Hunter from Virginia decommitted from LSU and pledged to the Vols earlier in the week.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Loften committed to UT despite the presence of just one current assistant coach (and no coordinator) on defense. Secondary coach Willie Mack Garza, who started UT's recruitment of Loften, bolted for Southern California on Friday.

Dooley mentioned last week in his introductory news conference that he'd recruited Texas "for years" as Louisiana Tech's head coach and as an SEC assistant.

"Coach Garza was a big part of why I first liked Tennessee, and he's a good guy, but Tennessee is still Tennessee," Loften said. "I like Coach Dooley a lot. He's a cool guy ... a real straightforward kind of guy. He wants to really change the program and turn it around, and he wants guys like me to help him do it.

"I really liked what he was talking about."

Loften is aware that standout defensive backs Eric Berry and Dennis Rogan opted to forgo their final season of Vols eligibility and declare for the NFL draft. The prospect widely regarded as one of the nation's biggest-hitting safeties saw the potential for immediate playing time.

"Hitting is my thing, just like (Berry)," he said. "I could see them using me like that, and that would be cool. I can play deep or come up in the box and hit, and that's what they let (Berry) do when he was there.

"I would love to come up there and make an impact like that as a freshman."

Garza was also the assistant coach most closely associated with Hunter's recruitment, but the prospect said his commitment to UT was still solid. Hunter liked what he heard from Dooley and new Vols assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett, who has coached several of the NFL's top wideouts the past two decades.

UT hosted several official visitors this weekend, including Calhoun (Ga.) High School quarterback and wide receiver duo Nash Nance and Da'Rick Rogers. Nance has committed to Vanderbilt and Rogers has pledged to Georgia, but both said earlier this week they were excited to visit Knoxville.

Other contacts for Wes Rucker are www.twitter.com/wesrucker and www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.

about Wes Rucker...

Twitter - @wesrucker Facebook - /tfpvolsbeat

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