Despite a rough end to the 2016 football season, the Vols are showing positive strides on the recruiting trail as summer workouts approach.
A commitment from local tight end and Vol legacy Jacob Warren of Farragut High School on Wednesday gave Tennessee its 11th commitment for the 2018 class, second-most in the SEC behind LSU. The Vols’ class sits at around No. 8 or No. 9 nationally by most recruiting pundits.
Warren was a standout athlete on Farragut’s 2016 state championship team that overcame a 28-point deficit in the title game to win the school’s first state title. He had just nine touchdowns on the season, but averaged one every three catches after recording just 29 receptions all year, according to the team’s MaxPreps stats.
Warren told Ryan Callahan of 247Sports.com on Wednesday that he compared every school he visited to Tennessee, and that none stood up to the Vols.
While Warren’s recruit rankings don’t raise too many eyebrows (No. 781 overall player and No. 32 TE according to 247Sports, No. 24 ranked Tennessee 2018 prospect according to Rivals), it does give the Vols another in-state commitment. The state’s talent is only getting better, and in-state recruits still think highly of Tennessee despite some of the negative vibes surrounding the program’s losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt at the end of last season.
Of the Vols’ 11 commitments, seven are from Tennessee, including three of the state’s top five prospects according to 247Sports. Current class of 2018 Tennessee commit and Vol legacy Cade Mays, who plays for Knoxville Catholic High School, is the class’s anchor and has been recruiting local players to the orange and white since his initial commitment back in July of 2015.
Tennessee’s early start on the recruiting trail only shows that the Vols aren’t letting the sour end to the regular season spoil the start of this year. More than that, it shows that recruits still value playing time and the state of the program at Tennessee.
Warren, for example, will have ample opportunity to see the field in his first two years in Knoxville because rising seniors Ethan Wolf and Jakob Johnson will be graduating. The Vols lost a multi-year starting quarterback, their No. 1 corner, one of the conference’s fiercest defensive end duos and depth along the defensive line.
Those holes allow Tennessee to recruit early playing time, something that Butch Jones hasn’t been shy about handing out since his time at UT began. Jones repeatedly brought up the Vols’ youth in his first few seasons, but that youth was full of plenty of talent after some of the state and country’s biggest recruits signed with Tennessee to get playing time early.
Finally, if nothing else, the buzz shows that the Vols’ newest position coaches are connecting with recruits. Newly promoted offensive coordinator Larry Scott has been one of Tennessee’s best recruiters since joining the Vols last year, and his bigger role with the offense seems to be going over well with recruits.
New offensive line coach Walt Wells is ranked the No. 9 overall recruiter for the 2018 class after Warren’s commitment Wednesday and new defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator Charlton Warren was instrumental in the recruitment of the Vols’ second-best commitment Brendon Harris, also an in-state kid.
Is this an all-is-forgiven moment for Tennessee’s slip-ups against South Carolina and Vandy last season? No. But, it does show that the Vols are bouncing back on the recruiting trail and making positive strides in 2017, at least for now.