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Tennessee Athletics photo / New Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel speaks during last Saturday night's basketball game between the Volunteers and Kansas inside Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tennessee football has produced plenty of news the past three weeks, from the firing of Jeremy Pruitt to the hiring of Josh Heupel with multiple NCAA transfer portal decisions sprinkled in as well.

Wednesday, however, could be unusually quiet.

The first Wednesday in February is the traditional signing period for college football recruits, but the early signing window in December has punted tradition out the door. There has been minimal buzz on the recruiting front this week in Knoxville, with Tennessee having landed 20 signees during the early period and with most of the current curiosity surrounding the assistant coaches that Heupel has to announce.

"Last year, Tennessee only added a couple guys on national signing day, and that's kind of become more of the norm," said Ryan Callahan, who covers Vols recruiting for 247Sports.com. "This year, even with Tennessee's former staff, there wasn't the plan to sign maybe anybody on Wednesday. There is an eye on the transfer portal, and some schools are saving spots because of that.

"This was supposed to be the make or break year for Jeremy Pruitt, and the plan was for them to take some transfers, which they already have with Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker. With the timing of this new staff, it's tough to jump in on guys you haven't been recruiting."

Two of Tennessee's top early signees, four-star outside linebacker Dylan Brooks of Roanoke, Alabama, and four-star running back Cody Brown from the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn, have expressed their desire to be released from their letters of intent they signed when Pruitt was coach. Callahan believes that Brooks, a top-75 national signee, could be trying to play closer to home at Auburn and that Brown is a power back who feels he may not fit in Heupel's up-tempo, spread offense.

The only signee Tennessee has added since the early period is three-star receiver Andison Coby of Northeast Mississippi Community College, who is already taking spring semester classes.

"Technically, he committed to Tennessee and enrolled without there being a full-time head coach in place," Callahan said, "which I had never seen before."

Offensive tackle Colby Smith of Reidsville, North Carolina, who committed to Tennessee last May but opened up his recruitment when Pruitt was terminated, has announced that he will be attending Auburn. The 6-foot-7, 315-pounder is a three-star prospect on the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

"It's been a very rough month," Smith posted on Twitter, "but I believe everything happens for a reason, and this is where God has directed me in life."

Smith committed to the Vols when Will Friend was their offensive line coach but didn't sign in the early period. Friend left for South Carolina in December but then switched his employer last month to Auburn.

 

Heupel's newest fan

Heupel was introduced to fans inside Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday night during the first half of Tennessee's 80-61 dismantling of Kansas, and he has quickly earned the support of Vols basketball coach Rick Barnes.

"I met him in the football locker room the first day he was here," Barnes said Monday afternoon, "and he was standing by the court when I walked on it the other night. He's a lot like (new Tennessee athletic director Danny White). What I like about those guys, and it honestly takes me back to Providence and Clemson and those days, is that they just want a chance to come into a situation and make it better.

"I'm impressed with the fact that they think they've got great jobs and that they know what this place can be. I can speak from my time at that age, and you're not afraid to compete, and I don't think these guys will be afraid to compete. I think they're going to get us in the fight, and that's what we all want."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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