Vols Win Grand Bryce

Bryce Brown

Sports parallels are bountiful to draw UT's recruiting coup of signing the nation's No. 1 ranked prospect Bryce Brown into focus — it's like having Michael Jordan fall to the Bulls at No. 3 in the NBA Draft, it's like the Yankees buying Babe Ruth from the Red Sox for a $100 grand, it's drafting Joe Montana with the No. 82 pick in the NFL Draft.

Sports parallels are bountiful to draw UT's recruiting coup of signing the nation's No. 1 ranked prospect Bryce Brown into focus — it's like having Michael Jordan fall to the Bulls at No. 3 in the NBA Draft, it's like the Yankees buying Babe Ruth from the Red Sox for a $100 grand, it's drafting Joe Montana with the No. 82 pick in the NFL Draft. In short, it's serendipity when a great talent falls right into your lap as a result of some unforeseen fortune, a fortuitous twist of fate, a cosmic coincidence. Certainly, kudos go to UT's coaching staff on accomplishing in two months what other programs didn't do in two years. It's another credential building achievement for Lane Kiffin and it comes at a time when he could use some positive pop.

As well as Tennessee's staff performed in transition, timing and a favorable alignment of conditions made it possible for the Vols to get involved so late and make up a lot of ground in a hurry. His ongoing disenchantment with Miami — where his brother played, where his parents preferred Bryce play and where he was committed to play — opened the door.

His hectic football schedule, which included his senior season, an array of award appearances, all-star games and all-America functions, didn't really allow Brown to focus on recruiting or to begin an elimination phase. Instead he began to expand his search, an indication there wasn't an actual leader.

Trips to Missouri, Kansas State, Oregon, Clemson, Miami and LSU were all reportedly positive, but, by most accounts, hadn't produced the type of passion commonly associated with being sold on a school.

The longer the Vols stayed in the game the more ambiguous the signs became. A January visit had piqued Brown's interest in UT, but he still had questions about the new offensive system being installed. That was understandable, but the change also made it possible for Tennessee to compete for his services in the first place. The fact he fit the offense so well and that it ripped right from NFL play books made UT a viable option.

When David Oku fell to Tennessee the Vols chances of signing Brown seemed a little more remote, but the two tailbacks, with decidedly different strengths, had discussed such a scenario and both were in favor of the idea. Yet it remains a matter of speculation whether Oku would have signed with Tennessee if Brown had inked first.

Rumors of a last visit to Knoxville swirled last week but once validated the unlikely suddenly seemed less so. The fact Brown was an interested observer who was observed at Friday's open-to-the-public scrimmage while clad in an orange parka convinced even hardcore doubters UT was a serious contender.

There were also conflicting signals. For instance, his parents didn't accompany him on either trip to Knoxville, raising a red flag about UT's place in the prospect's final pecking order.

Hearts dropped in Big Orange Country when Bryce Brown picked up a Miami cap at Monday's announcement, held at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, but jumped right back into their throats when he exchanged it for an orange cap emblazoned with the distinctive white T. The nation's top prospect and No. 1 running back had faked everyone out again.

His decision may have come down to a feeling or a comfort level. It could have been a well reasoned, thoroughly analytical process that produced the most logical choice. Or it might have been due to some other, yet to be disclosed, X factor. The bottom line is the same, the Vols have secured the top high school senior football talent in America for the first time in UT history.

The act of signing Brown is a boom for the football program and it will result in other big names wanting to visit and discover more about Tennessee under the youngest head coach in college football's highest division. If Brown lives up to his vast potential it will result in his image, number and talent generating vast sums for the University in terms of merchandise sales, television appearances and media exposure.

Brown is a transformative talent, but he'll have to make adjustments to the collegiate game. Injuries are the great robber of athletic gifts, luck plays a role in a player's development and drive is a must. For every Reggie White there is a Lee Otis Burton, for every Jamal Lewis there is a Brian Darden, for every Al Wilson there is a Daniel Brooks.

With that caveat in place, we return you to your celebration. Indeed it's the dawn of a new day in Big Orange Country.

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