January 24, 2010

Rivera sets leader, likely timetable

Having been through the recruiting process in high school two years ago when he ultimately signed with Oregon, Mychal Rivera learned to look beyond the glitz and showmanship that has accompanied the visiting process and focus on details.

Like how much attention a player's position -- in Rivera's case tight end -- will receive from a prospective coaching staff. To that end, Tennessee could hardly have left a more favorable impression on the athletic, 6-foot-4, 230-pounder -- particularly newly-hired head coach Derek Dooley.

"They showed me a lot of stuff from Louisiana Tech, and they kind of said there are three guys who care about tight ends," said Rivera, who left Oregon and attended College of the Canyons (Santa Clarita, Calif.) last year. "You know, coach Dooley has a past working in the NFL with tight ends. That's a plus. Coach (Eric) Russell is going to be my tight ends coach, that's a plus. Coach (Jim) Chaney (UT offensive coordinator) coached tight ends last year. So it's like three people who have tight end experience who are going to be around me. They showed me the Louisiana Tech film and then they showed me coach Chaney's stuff with the Rams and coach Chaney's stuff from last year and they really utilized the tight end and that's something I would be looking for."

While Rivera stressed the importance of returning to Los Angeles to visit with his family, he acknowledged that his rainy weekend in Knoxville had put Tennessee in an ideal position as he leaned toward a mid-week decision.

"My visit was really good. I'm going to go back with my family this weekend, and I'm going to talk to them. And I told coach Dooley that I'm going to be letting him know probably by Wednesday of my decision," said Rivera. "Yeah, I feel like Tennessee is my leader. I mean, they're still the same until I talk to my parents, until I talk to my family, but Tennessee left a big impression on me this weekend."

Dooley's vision -- and patience -- in assembling his inaugural coaching staff in Knoxville likewise impressed Rivera.

"It's really how coach Dooley is going to change what's going on," Rivera said of Dooley's plan and what he was shown about the Vols' projected offense. "He's a fresh face inside the offense. He's bringing in a whole-new staff. I see that he's hand-picked who he wants. He's not just picking out random people. And the staff he's put together is really good; coach Russell, he's going to be my tight ends coach. He's real good. Coach Chaney, he's a legend. The people he is putting together are real nice."

And while Rivera, who initially selected Oregon two years ago over Ole Miss, UCLA and others, studied Tennessee far beyond its facilities this weekend, he also appreciated the Vols' digs.

"The facilities are crazy. They're the best I've seen," he said. "I mean, they're better than Oregon. I didn't think anybody could top Oregon, but they're better than Oregon.

"And it's not even really facilities for me to make my decision or anything. It was really to see what kind of foundation they're building their program on, and it seems like a real good foundation."

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