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Dabo Swinney owned Butch Jones in Oak Ridge last night

Need another painful reminder of losing Tee Higgins to Clemson? Here you go.

(Photo courtesy of WBIR’s Luke Slabaugh.)

It’s a contentious time for one Butch Jones. He’s in the process of attempting to replace several assistants and staff members without the help of an athletic director. His recruiting class has the lowest blue-chip ratio since the combination Dooley/Butch class. He’s struggling to hold onto the best recruits in Tennessee, claiming just three of the top 12 and five of the top 21 in the last two years. Clemson (!) has as many of the state’s top six recruits (two) as Tennessee does. Putting the cherry on top is a painful reminder of losing both Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers to Dabo Swinney last night in Oak Ridge.

This is the part where you remember Butch Jones had the two best area recruits in maybe a decade 20 minutes from his university and lost both. Worse, he lost both to an out-of-state school. Dabo Swinney came in to East Tennessee, whipped Butch Jones, stole his recruits, and now has a ring.

How is this possible, one may ask? Well, look at the talent both coaches have brought in for the passing game. Clemson’s three-year run of DeShaun Watson just ended, but they’ll see little drop-off in quality with both Hunter Johnson (former Tennessee commit) and Trevor Lawrence (Tennessee fan growing up) going there. Under Butch Jones, Tennessee’s ranked 111th, 71st, 92nd, and 62nd in passing yards per game. Clemson’s last three years? 39th, 23rd, and 7th, with two strong-armed quarterbacks coming in. Why would a major receiver come here right now?

Swinney coming in and stealing two recruits is bad enough, but look at how enthusiastic the people meeting him are above. They seem much more excited than anyone I’ve seen at a Tennessee game in the last nine years, minus Florida this season. Tennessee doesn’t have that excitement or enthusiasm right now, and it’s badly hurting the program. The fine citizens of Oak Ridge are far more enthused to meet a championship-winning coach than they are one that just lost to Vanderbilt to miss the Sugar Bowl.

Most damaging to Butch Jones’ reputation in East Tennessee is this. Under his tenure, four East Tennessee players have ranked as four or five-stars nationally on 247 Sports. Butch Jones has succeeded in signing just one of those: Todd Kelly, Jr., a legacy player. It’s scary to think about, but Tennessee is losing its grip on its own area. Whether it’s Butch Jones or someone else, what happened last night in Oak Ridge cannot be seen as excusable. It should be seen as something to fight back against.

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