By David Bradford, for VFL Insider
Well would you look at that?
The much-maligned Butch Jones, who has transformed into somewhat of a laughing stock by national sports media because of his antics, is pumping out victory after victory on the recruiting trail. Recently, the Vols tabbed 4-star safety Brendon Harris out of Chattanooga.
This coming days after Tennessee also received a commitment from 4-star dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez from Fresno, California.
So far, the Vols have 10 hard commits for the Class of 2018 and currently possess the seventh best recruiting class in the nation, according to 247sports. At the present moments, that’s second among all SEC teams (LSU is rated the highest at No. 4).
Now, I know it’s early, and certainly, Alabama will swoop in as the year progresses and have the top-rated class for the millionth straight season. But let’s enjoy this moment for Butch because honestly, it is surprising.
Tennessee’s brand took an absolute punch to the gut after a turbulent 2016. There are legitimate reasons why the Vols underachieved last season, but another 9-4 campaign certainly didn’t bode well moving forward for the Vols. That was highlighted by a fairly pedestrian Class of 2017. Sure, Trey Smith(link) is a monster and a future No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, but outside of Smith, the coaching staff in Knoxville has to work its magic.
Then, there was the Orange and White game. So sparsely attended that Wednesday afternoons on an average day during the school year see the campus more densely populated. Some blame the weather — which forced Tennessee to end the glorified spring practice early — while others blame the lack of excitement around the program.
Obviously, the latter isn’t the case. At least, on the recruiting trail.
Again, it’s important to remember that we’re still early in the process. So early that if you go to 247Sports and see their rankings, you won’t find Alabama. Instead, you’ll find Miami No. 1 and Nebraska at No. 8.
I have a hunch that that’s not going to hold for much longer.
Now, the orange and white certainly could hold inside the top-10. Since 2014, the Vols have ranked 7th, 4th, 14th, and 17th. That’s not an upward trend fans would like to see, but remember, the Vols were loaded with talent over the past two seasons, making it harder to recruit since most prospects are attracted to programs with the path of least resistance, unless you’re Alabama or Ohio state. Then players will wait their entire careers to play.
And maybe that’s a strike against this class. After all, Tennessee lost a whole bunch of star power after last season, meaning the cupboard is fairly bare.
Perhaps Butch is simply retooling a roster that experienced massive turnover and isn’t a savant. However, if the fan base was pooled, what percentage would be shocked by the recent developments? Over 50 percent at least. And I know half of the recruits are in-state players, but make no mistake about it, Butch is putting in the work. He’s keeping Tennessee relevant in college football’s most significant area, which should be enough to make Tennessee fans excited about the future.