The Tennessean Ensworth's Antonio Richardson sprints while pulling a parachute during a workout at Red Caboose Park in Bellevue, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE — After Wednesday's dust had settled, Derek Dooley took his seat in front of the media and glanced at the sheet listing the 27 new recruits he had just signed into the University of Tennessee football program.
But as the now second-year coach of the Volunteers knows, how the class looks on paper doesn't always translate to wins in the fall.
"The future is bright," he said, "but I also need to remind everybody that only time will tell what this class is.
"Now it's our job to get them here, it's our job to coach them, it's our job to mentor them, it's our job to motivate them, it's our job to support them academically and hopefully they leave out of here doing some real special things."
After landing three four-star recruits in a span of less than 24 hours Tuesday, UT added arguably the most important piece of the class on Wednesday.
Nashville offensive lineman Antonio Richardson, the top-ranked player in the state, picked the Vols after flirting with Georgia and Auburn to the put finishing touch on a class that's diverse by both location and position.
UT signed seven players out of Tennessee and Georgia and added six from Florida. The class of seven in-state players is the Vols' largest since 11 Tennessee players signed in 2007.
But as ranging as the class is, it accomplished one goal.
"We had to increase size and speed at every position," Dooley said. "A good way to sum us up last year was little and slow, so we're trying to be big and fast. I feel like we did [that].
"Whether we're any good, we'll find out, but our stature, we played some games where we were getting hit and it looked like it hurt. I'd kind of like to be on the giving end. You look at these guys, they're big guys. We need some big guys who can run."
For a team that faced depth issues all of last season after the all the attrition that comes with coaching changes in consecutive years, the Vols had needs across the board.
"Every position," he said, "I feel like was helped with some quality size, speed, tough, outstanding players, every position. We needed help everywhere because we lacked considerable depth. The break down is as good as I think you can do it."
UT did focus most of its attention on its secondary, signing seven defensive backs, including junior college transfers Byron Moore and Izauea Lanier.
The Vols continued adding to its promising crop of offensive linemen as well, signing Richardson, Marcus Jackson, Kyler Kerbyson, Mack Crowder and Alan Posey to the nucleus of Ja'Wuan James, James Stone and Zach Fulton from last year's class.
"A lot of hard work has gone into today," Dooley said. "It's impossible to put together a quality signing class without a total team effort from so many people. As a result, we have an outstanding class that's going to be coming in."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...