Butch Jones is Assembling a Top-5 Recruiting Class at Tennessee

By Patrick Schmidt
Jim Brown – USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Volunteers are a runaway train and a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail as first-year head coach Butch Jones is well underway to assembling a potential top-five or six recruiting class after landing his latest commitment today.

Jones picked up his third recruit ranked as a four-star prospect or higher when cornerback D’Andre Payne (Washington, D.C. Friendship Academy) announced via twitter that he is committing to the Volunteers. The four-star cornerback is the No. 16 ranked corner according to 247Sports.com and chose the Volunteers over Florida State, Clemson, Virginia and Vanderbilt.

According to Tom Loy of 247Sports.com, one of the primary factors that led to his early commitment was his relationship with Jones and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who served as the chief recruiter of Payne.

“I love that coaching staff at UT,” Payne said. “Coach Jones is putting together a masterpiece with the program, and he is going to turn it around and get it back to being a powerhouse. I want to be a part of that.”

I joked on twitter earlier after the news broke about Payne’s commitment that Jones has already accomplished more in his brief tenure as the head coach of the Volunteers than Derek Dooley did in his three years at the helm. While I said that sarcastically, some fans may agree with notion despite Jones not even coaching in a regular season game.

He had to play catch up last season after being hired late in the recruiting cycle, yet almost pulled off a miracle by flipping Carl Lawson after he visited Knoxville and came up just short in landing four-star safety Vonn Bell. Tennessee was only able to bring in five four-star prospects last season and conceivably could pass that number before their spring game Apr. 20.

Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tn. Beech) headlines the class that currently ranks as the sixth best according to 247Sports rankings and the five-star running back is one of the reasons why the class will only get deeper and rise up the rankings.

Much like when Robert Nkemdiche brought attention to Ole Miss last season that had recruits wanting to check out what head coach Hugh Freeze had planned for the future of the program, Hurd will have a similar impact for this year’s recruits.

Players that may not have initially considered Tennessee will have to give them a second thought and take visits to see their unbelievable facilities as well as visit with the staff. That momentum will continue into the summer, fall and ultimately next winter when signing day approaches.

I think the Volunteers are well on their way to replicating what Ole Miss did this past winter when they finished with a top five class after a seven-win season.

I don’t know how successful Tennessee will be on the field this season, because they have to replace a lot of talent on offense, but the future is incredibly bright for the program and Jones is putting the rest of the SEC on notice.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your Google network.

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