KNOXVILLE -- Even a potentially dire circumstance at quarterback hasn't changed the recruiting standards for Tennessee's new football coaching staff.
The Volunteers are the only Southeastern Conference program with no quarterbacks still enrolled from the last three signing classes, and they have none publicly committed for 2010.
But impressive roster numbers don't mean anything "if you don't have good players," UT assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron said recently.
"If you sign a kid who can't play, then you're sitting there for five years stuck with a kid who can't play," he added. "That's not how we're going to do things."
The Vols coaches are sticking with that philosophy despite a potentially large pothole -- one that widened when 2007 signee B.J. Coleman from Chattanooga left the program after spring practice.
Tennessee's 2008 quarterback signee, Casey Kelly, decided to play professional baseball after receiving a hefty signing bonus from the Boston Red Sox. This year's class once had two quarterback commitments, but new head coach Lane Kiffin informed Texas standout Bryce Petty and Virginia All-American Tajh Boyd that their talents -- though legitimate -- didn't fit UT's new scheme.
That all left the Vols with just two scholarship quarterbacks for this season: senior Jonathan Crompton and fourth-year junior Nick Stephens. Former professional baseball pitcher Mike Rozier has arrived on campus as a walk-on, but the big left-hander is undoubtedly a question mark.
One Vol recently joked that his quarterback teammates will get "plenty of one-on-one coaching ... even more than usual.
"Because there aren't many people in that meeting room," the player added.
Coaches hope the bright side of UT's lack of quarterback depth will be a favorable recruiting situation. Premier players at that position are often some of the first to commit, because schools take only one or two quarterbacks a year, and elite skill position players often follow the top passers.
"It's definitely something you look at," Vols wide receiver Gerald Jones said. "If you're going to play receiver or running back -- or anywhere on offense, really -- you want to know what quarterbacks are there, and what quarterbacks are coming in with you. Everybody knows how important that position is."
Many of the nation's top recruiting analysts consider this a down year for quarterbacks, though, and some of the Vols' top targets have committed elsewhere.
Blake Bell, Phillip Sims and Jake Heaps, three quarterbacks to whom UT quickly made offers, committed to Oklahoma, Alabama and BYU. Nick Montana, Joe's son, never received a firm Vols offer but recently went off their board by committing to Washington.
Coaches are forbidden by the NCAA to comment on unsigned prospects, but the Vols are known to be in the mix for several other quarterbacks across the country. California's Jesse Scroggins, Cincinnati's Andrew Hendrix, Louisiana's Munchie Legeaux and most recently Memphis' Barry Brunetti also reportedly have received UT offers.
Another Californian -- Chase Rettig -- has stayed in contact with the Vols and might get an offer. Assistant coaches have scoured several states, most noticeably California and Florida, to scout passing prospects.
Hendrix gave the Vols glowing remarks following an early-summer trip to Knoxville, but he told IrishIllustrated.com this week that he considered committing to Notre Dame during a recent visit to the school.
"I was blown away," he told the Web site. "(But) I have to let my head settle down before I make a decision. I'm not 100 percent on Notre Dame yet; obviously it sounds like I am."
Scroggins, an athletic pocket passer with "lots of family" in Memphis, is set to visit Knoxville later this summer and has consistently placed UT and Florida near the top of his list.
Brunetti, more of a dual-threat quarterback at about 6 feet tall, clearly was pleased with his recent offer for several reasons. The Vols have "always been my favorite team," he said before commenting on the depth chart.
"Obviously, Tennessee probably one of the best situations out there right now," he said. "They just don't have that many (quarterbacks) right now."
UT coaches would like to land two quarterbacks in this class. Former Vols offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, like most coaches, preferred to sign one quarterback in every class.
"You know me, I'll take as many of them as I can get," Cutcliffe said two years ago, just before leaving for the head coaching position at Duke. "But you feel pretty good if you can get one good one every year."