In pieces taking a closer look at commitments, I usually hit the high point on measurables, evaluations, chances at early playing time and the like, but this will be a bit different because our latest addition to the 2011 recruiting class is anything but usual. Brutal honesty here: This one is just plain damn weird.
Consider this: Aaron Douglas grew up in Maryville, Tennessee as a lifelong Tennessee fan. In terms of being cursed with puke orange blood from birth, he gets far closer than any respectable human being ever should. His father played on the offensive line at Tennessee under Johnny Majors and was a member of the Volunteers' 1985 SEC Championship team. His mother played basketball at Tennessee under Pat Summit. After he finished his high school career with four state championships and a 60-0 record, he signed with Tennessee in the 2008 recruiting class.
And he played for Tennessee, and quite well I might add. After redshirting in 2008, where he made the transition from tight end to tackle, Douglas was a starter for the Vols the entire 2009 season. He played against us that season in the famed Rocky Block game. When all was said and done, he was named a freshman All-American at right tackle, and looked to make the switch to left tackle in 2010 as the cornerstone of the Tennessee offensive line.
Oh and, yeah, he likes rap music. A lot. And I don't mean like the typical white kid who has some Tupac and 50 Cent song on his iPod either. No, he is actually a rapper (sort of), and considers it a passion. For example, to take a step back from the recruiting process a few days ago, he went to Knoxville to "lay down some tracks" with a friend. And in fact, apparently part of the reason he left Tennessee -- apparently he really liked Lane Kiffin, too, which was largely the other part -- was to pursue a professional rap career. I know, seriously.
And that is our latest commitment in a nutshell: A Tennessee legacy who started a season for the Vols and who apparently places the same emphasis on being a rapper as he does being a football player. Considering that space in our 2011 recruiting class has become extremely limited -- I think we are likely down to about four remaining signees, and as of right now I would speculate that only Cyrus Kouandjio, Isiah Crowell, Jadeveon Clowney, Xzavier Dickson, and Enrique Florence have firm, commitable offers -- to put it mildly it's a bit strange that we have chosen to use a scholarship on a player with that background.
So why did we take Douglas? I see two main reasons.
First and foremost, the kid can play and there is absolutely no doubt about that fact. This is not like the usual scenario with prospects where there is always uncertainty about whether or not they can legitimately play at this level. Douglas can definitely play in the SEC, he's done it before, and he's done it at a pretty high level, too. His father actually played in the NFL, and it's not hard to see the son ending up there someday. By signing him we know we have another legitimate tackle who we can plug in at either tackle spot against SEC competition and get good production.
Second, and perhaps just as important, I get the sense that the staff feels we are thin at tackle. Yes, Tyler Love was a five-star recruit with offers from every program in the country, that does not matter the least now. He does not look to be ever be a meaningful contributor now, and who else do we have with James Carpenter leaving? D.J. Fluker looks to be a great player who will live up to the billing, but Alfred McCullough struggled on down the stretch and really does not have the length of a typical SEC tackle. Arie Kouandjio has impressed the coaching staff and he may legitimately be considered the frontrunner for the starting job opposite Fluker , but outside of Fluker and Kouandjio things look pretty thin, and the coaching staff is probably not overly excited about the prospect of throwing a freshman into the fire.
Clearly, Douglas has some red flags and obviously they create cause for concern. Having said that, though, he can definitely play and frankly we need some quality depth on the offensive line, so in the meantime hope for the best that Douglas can get it together mentally and keep it together the next two years.