At Tennessee, Dooley's poaching saves class

By landing recruits such as the Calhoun High wide receiver, Tennessee's new coach has salvaged his first recruiting class for the Volunteers. Hired less than three weeks ago, Dooley made the most of his time, piecing together a 25-player class that might be better than the one Lane Kiffin had recruited before bolting to USC.

Dooley's salesmanship was among the more significant items of note on signing day Wednesday, along with an unlikely slump for Georgia, a strong finish at Georgia Tech and a Georgia State class heavy on defense and junior-college transfers.

Rogers was one of the big surprises for the Volunteers. After committing to Georgia in June, the top-ranked player in Georgia spurned the Bulldogs on Tuesday in favor of Tennessee.

"Before Dooley, not so interested," Rogers said at his signing day ceremony Wednesday morning in Calhoun. "After Dooley, a lot interested."

Recruiting services and rated Tennessee's class ninth and 15th, respectively.

Dooley, the son of Georgia coaching legend Vince Dooley, did lose some players previously committed to Tennessee, including three in the AJC's top 50 for Georgia. However, he retained two more Georgians who had already committed: North Gwinnett High offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James and Southwest DeKalb High cornerback Marcques Dixon. In addition to Rogers, Dooley scored another coup with a different Georgia player, convincing Sandy Creek High running back Rajion Neal to abandon Mississippi State for Rocky Top in late January.

The elder Dooley was asked how far back his son's knack for negotiating went.

"Well, he's a lawyer. He was on the debate team," he said. "Let's put it that way."

Rogers' defection to Tennessee was among the low notes struck in Athens. He was one of four players who committed to Georgia before the start of last season but ultimately bailed. In need of wide receivers, the Bulldogs also lost out on a couple of other prospects at that position Wednesday. They made an offer Wednesday to Lonnie Outlaw, a wide receiver from Wilcox County who is rated a two-star prospect by Scout and likely will go to a junior college.

The Bulldogs did land Stephenson High defensive tackle Mike Thornton, the No. 3 player in Georgia. His decision was unknown until Wednesday. New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham sees him as a good fit for the Dogs' 3-4 defense.

At Tech, the arrival of defensive coordinator Al Groh paved the way for the Jackets to sign Louis Young, a cornerback from Washington, D.C., who switched his commitment from Stanford to play for Groh and Tech. He is one of five Tech signees with a four-star rating from Rivals. Groh had recruited Young to Virginia, where he was head coach before getting fired after last season, and then talked him into taking a visit to Tech.

"There's one general thing that we see with Georgia Tech, that these are tremendous football players with good football IQ that do not make mistakes," said Rivals recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree.

Georgia State, which will kick off its inaugural season Sept. 2, signed 10 junior-college transfers in its 29-player class, some of whom have already enrolled. The Panthers, who will be heavy on freshmen, will need players with college playing experience. Twenty of the 29 play defense.

Said Georgia State coach Bill Curry, "Now we can line up on both sides of the ball with people that are physically capable of competing in size and strength."

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