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How does Tennessee’s 2017 class rank historically?

Is the class a good one or can we hope for better with Tennessee recruiting?

Is Tennessee’s class good or not? Will fans be disappointed if they watch ESPNU’s Signing Day coverage today? How much good can this class do? How does the Tennessee recruiting class for 2017 rank among other classes in recent history? All of these are great questions. That’s why we’ve got a team on hand to respond to them.

It’s been well-covered in Knoxville and on airwaves that this isn’t the greatest Tennessee class ever. They’re not likely to add anyone on National Signing Day, which is an unusual departure for Butch Jones. The class currently ranks 14th on 247 Sports, the lowest rank under Jones for a class that doesn’t include Derek Dooley’s efforts. It is what it is.

However, how does it stack up historically? Is it better or worse than what Tennessee’s turned in over the last 18 years? I’ve worked for a few months now on trying to find that out. Tennessee recruiting over the last two decades has been quite good, so it’s not surprising that this class has a lot to live up to.

To truly measure this class and its success or disappointment, I’m including three categories by which to measure it: overall class ranking, average recruit rating, and blue-chip ratio, which you can read about here.

First, here’s how it looks by Overall Class Ranking, from best to worst. All numbers are sourced via 247 Sports:

  • 1st: 2000 (#1)
  • T-2nd: 2002 (#3), 2007 (#3)
  • T-4th: 2001 (#4), 2005 (#4), 2015 (#4)
  • 7th: 2014 (#7)
  • 8th: 2009 (#8)
  • 9th: 2010 (#9)
  • 10th: 2003 (#10)
  • 11th: 2004 (#11)
  • T-12th: 2011 (#14), 2016 (#14), 2017 (#14)
  • 15th: 2012 (#20)
  • 16th: 2013 (#24)
  • 17th: 2006 (#26)
  • 18th: 2008 (#35)

Well, it’s below average, but it’s not truly disastrous – we’ve seen truly disastrous. The 2006 and 2008 classes led directly to Phillip Fulmer’s coaching career ending, because half of his final team was made up of Tennessee’s two worst classes of the last 18 years. You can also see where Tennessee recruiting dipped from their elite talent level around 2007 and took seven or eight years to get back. What about the Average Recruit Ranking? Because data prior to 2002 isn’t reliable, we’re going by how it compared to other programs. Tennessee does pretty well here, too.

  • T-1st: 2000 (#1), 2002 (#1)
  • 3rd: 2005 (#2)
  • 4th: 2001 (#4)
  • 5th: 2014 (#5)
  • 6th: 2015 (#6)
  • 7th: 2007 (#7)
  • T-8th: 2003 (#9), 2009 (#9)
  • 10th: 2004 (#10)
  • T-11th: 2010 (#13), 2016 (#13)
  • T-13th: 2011 (#15), 2012 (#15)
  • T-15th: 2006 (#21), 2017 (#21)
  • 17th: 2013 (#22)
  • 18th: 2008 (#23)

Some would hope this would be more positive. On to the Blue-Chip Ratio. As a reminder, this is a percentage of how much of your class is four or five-stars. To be a championship contender, you must have a four-year rolling average of 50% or better. The last 12 champions all held that ratio. Recruiting is the #1 predictor of success in college football, and this plays a large part in it. 2000 and 2001 are not included, as reliable data isn’t available for all recruits at that time. However, it is my opinion via my research that Tennessee would likely be in the top five of both years.

  • 1st: 2002 (15/22, 68.2%)
  • 2nd: 2015 (16/30, 53.3%)
  • 3rd: 2005 (11/21, 52.4%)
  • 4th: 2014 (16/32, 50%)
  • 5th: 2003 (8/18, 44.4%)
  • 6th: 2016 (10/23, 43.5%)
  • 7th: 2009 (9/21, 42.9%)
  • 8th: 2007 (14/33, 42.4%)
  • 9th: 2012 (8/22, 36.4%)
  • 10th: 2010 (10/28, 35.7%)
  • 11th: 2011 (9/27, 33.3%)
  • 12th: 2004 (6/20, 30%)
  • 13th: 2008 (4/18, 22.2%)
  • 14th: 2017 (5/28, 17.9%)
  • 15th: 2013 (4/23, 17.4%)
  • 16th: 2006 (1/18, 5.6%)

As you can see, Tennessee really could have used a fourth straight good class to move into championship-contending territory. That’s not to say they won’t in 2018 or 2019, but this class is a drag on that rating.

To avoid being too abrasive, this is a below-average class for Tennessee football. What’s unusual is that it would be a very good class for a lot of other programs out there. Tennessee recruiting is simply that good over the last 18 years. It’s a fan’s call as to whether they’ll take solace in that, but know that it could be far worse and has been in the past.

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