KNOXVILLE — There was no secret formula for Darin Hinshaw. The path to the Tennessee receivers coach’s biggest recruiting success required no complex navigation.
In landing the signature of star junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, Hinshaw simply did what he normally does.
“I recruited the heck out of the kid,” he said Wednesday, “and felt like we had a really good relationship. I believe that was important to him. I think his mom and sister mean the world to him, and they wanted to be able to see him play.
“They have not seen him play one game in Hutchinson, Kansas, so being close to home and being able to come see him play I think was important to him. Then being able to go be in an offense where he can showcase his talents and have an opportunity to go play in the NFL and go play in the biggest conference there is. A lot of things pointed to Tennessee early on — we just had to stay the course.”
The 39-year-old Hinshaw has made quite an impact on the Volunteers’ last two signing classes, and Patterson is his most notable success. The dynamic 6-foot-3, 205-pound playmaker from Rock Hill, S.C., is expected to give UT instantly another weapon on offense.
Hinshaw’s work on Patterson earned him a spot on Rivals.com’s list ranking the top 10 SEC recruiters. The relationship between recruit and recruiter ultimately won out, as the Hutchinson Community College receiver picked the Vols over Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU and Auburn.
“The guy’s a relentless recruiter,” Terry Joseph, UT’s safeties coach and recruiting coordinator, said of Hinshaw. “The one thing he does is cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I,’ and just chasing C.P. for basically 365 days was an incredible job by him. He’s very detailed, and like I said, he’s relentless.”
When he’s handling multiple areas for the Vols, that’s the approach Hinshaw must take. Patterson was Hinshaw’s second catch from the Kansas juco ranks, joining defensive tackle Maurice Couch from Garden City Community College last year. He’s also handled UT’s recruiting in Florida since his arrival on coach Derek Dooley’s staff as quarterbacks coach in January 2010.
The Punta Gorda native and former Central Florida quarterback and assistant coach has used those home-state ties to UT’s advantage. The Vols have signed 10 players from Florida in the last two classes after signing a dozen in the previous five years.
Now UT is using Hinshaw more in Memphis, the area Charlie Baggett handled before retiring in early December.
Hinshaw coached receivers at Memphis for three seasons before he was hired at UT, which gives him ties and familiarity with an area that annually produces a handful of SEC-level talent.
“I’ll just speak to him as a human being. Recruiting is not something special,” said UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. “Darin Hinshaw’s a wonderful human being that’s real, and recruits sense that and feel that about him. He cares about these kids greatly, and his work ethic is impeccable.
“You have somebody who gives off that persona of caring, which he does, and it’s real, and you work as hard as he does, good things come your way.”
That’s happened already for Hinshaw and the Vols for next year’s recruiting class. UT holds public commitments from Mackensie Alexander, a highly touted cornerback prospect from Immokalee High School in Florida, and Jason Carr, a defensive end from Memphis’ White Station High School who was receiving early attention from other SEC schools.
As demonstrated by the last-minute defections by linebackers Dalton Santos and Otha Peters to Texas and Arkansas, respectively, recruiting can be straining on coaches, who spend so much time evaluating, contacting, visiting and building relationships with prospects. As six assistant coaches jumped at other jobs this offseason, Dooley and holdover assistants Hinshaw, Chaney and Joseph did an admirable job of holding together the Vols’ 2012 class. A stressful as it certainly was, Hinshaw admitted he actually enjoyed and embraced it.
“Derek Dooley did an unbelievable job,” he said. “Obviously it’s more of a challenge than having a full staff, but you know, it was kind of fun. ‘Hey, let’s bond together; let’s make this thing work and go find a way.’”
In finding that way, Hinshaw said he takes a similar approach regardless of what area he’s recruiting.
“Every kid’s recruited differently,” he said, “and you have to find out what’s important to them. Who is touching them? What is it that their parents, what are they looking for? What is the [high school] coach looking for?
“You have to incorporate all of this, and at the end of the day you have to make sure that the kid, what’s important to him is number one.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...