After experiencing arguably the worst years of football in the history of the Tennessee Volunteers program in recent seasons, the Volunteers landed a top-10 class on National Signing Day that will propel their program moving forward.
After completing his first season as the head coach in Knoxville with a 5-7 overall record, Butch Jones dominated much of the recruiting trail during and after the season by hauling in 33 total commitments and 14 early enrollees. The Volunteers’ 2014 class finished the recruiting whirlwind as the no. 7 overall class in the nation and fifth in the SEC.
The state of Tennessee does not produce some of the elite talent annually that other states such as California, Texas and Florida do, but the Volunteer state had many prospects that were highly rated this year, and Jones and his staff were able to come through and keep them at home. A few of the top names from the state of Tennessee that the Volunteers brought in include Josh Malone, Todd Kelly Jr. and Jalen Hurd.
This class is also special due to the number of legacy players who followed in their family member’s footsteps who also played at Tennessee. Evan and Elliot Berry from Creekside High School out of Atlanta, GA followed their brother, All-Pro Eric Berry. Meanwhile, linebacker Dillon Bates will follow his father, former all-American safety Bill Bates.
The Volunteers had the largest class in the country by a good margin, and they desperately needed it for many reasons. Tennessee needs depth and they need it badly. These freshman that are coming in were promised playing time early, and many of them will have a great opportunity to see the field this coming fall, at least on special teams.
Secondly, Tennessee simply needed more talent and playmakers. Last year, they were able to bring in talents such as Marquez North, Ryan Jenkins and Josh Dobbs, but this class in different.
The talent that Jones brought in this year is some of the best in the country. I mentioned earlier that they brought in top players from within the state, but they also reached out all over the country to find talent in players such as Von Pearson (California), Cortez McDowell (Georgia), Chris Weatherd (Texas) and Joe Henderson (Ohio).
Tennessee undoubtedly has a long way to go if they want to even be atop the SEC East, much less the entire conference or the country. But if Jones can continue to build by his motto of ‘brick-by-brick’ and steadily bring in top recruiting classes like this year, then the Volunteers may once again be the program of old.
It may not come as quickly as many impatient Volunteer fans would like, but give Jones time and he will restore the program.
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