Tennessee football had nobody go in Round One of the NFL Draft Thursday night. The failures of Derek Dooley and Lane Kiffin are now complete.
When Phillip Fulmer was fired at the end of the 2008 football season after a disastrous 5-7 record, Tennessee football fans did not realize how disastrous the next near-decade would be for the program.
That has been extensively documented already. But Thursday night, the last vestiges of the failures of Derek Dooley and Lane Kiffin were seen.
The 2017 NFL Draft will be the first time this decade that a Tennessee player not part of a Lane Kiffin or Derek Dooley recruiting class or football team will finally be able to be eligible for the NFL Draft. The 2016 NFL Draft was the last time that the damage they did to the program could be felt.
When Fulmer was fired, he still managed to have one player, Robert Ayers, taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2009. Kiffin arrived that year and brought in a Top 10 recruiting class in two weeks, making every Vols fan think that the future of recruiting was bright, meaning the future of more NFL talent was even brighter.
But Kiffin departed after one year, and his 2009 recruiting class became a massive bust. Nobody from that class was taken in the first round of any draft.
Two more Tennessee players, Eric Berry and Dan Williams, were taken in the 2010 NFL Draft, but they were clearly products of Phillip Fulmer.
So then came Dooley, and the failures started by Kiffin only made things worse. It seemed at first to be okay given the fact that he also brought in a Top 10 class in 2010. But a barrage of problems with both classes messed up the program on the football field…and in the NFL Draft.
By 2012, about half of both classes were off the team.
Then the Kiffin recruiting scandal hit, plaguing Tennessee’s 2011 class. After that, we found out an even more uncomfortable truth: despite being Nick Saban’s recruiting coordinator for five years at LSU, Derek Dooley understood nothing about what needs to be done to recruit for Tennessee football.
The 2012 class got worse, and after he was fired, Butch Jones was stuck with a ton of damage that ruined the 2013 class.
And no real NFL talent was able to come through the program, which turned away NFL scouts that used to flock to Knoxville. Only Ju’Wan James and Cordarrelle Patterson have been taken in the first round of the NFL Draft coming out of Tennessee since 2011.
We saw all of these problems play out on the football field, but the end of last season should have signaled an end to that. And with the end of the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Dooley and Kiffin cannot haunt Tennessee football any longer.
The Vols will enter the 2016 season clear of all of their failures, and we can now finally close that dark chapter of Tennessee football completely.