The Tennessee Vols kick off the season on Saturday but Butch Jones still has a few bricks to go before the Vols can Rise to the Top.
Butch Jones arrived in Knoxville, Tenn on December 7, 2012. He promptly salvaged a top 25 recruiting class by National Signing Day. Jones managed to seal the deal with a handful of 4-star recruits including immediate starter wide receiver Marquez North.
Jones’ momentum has not slacked off on the recruiting trail. He has yet to coach a game for the Vols but he is putting together an even more impressive class this year.
Jones preaches building the foundation of Tennessee “brick-by-brick”. The Vols have 24 “bricks” thus far in the 2014 cycle. Currently, Tennessee has a consensus Top-5 class with five months remaining until NSD. The Vols are expected to be able to sign up to 30 recruits in the current class.
Most Important Commits Thus Far
Tennessee hasn’t played a game yet this season but Jones has recruits buying into what he’s selling. The Vols have 24 verbal commitments as of August 28, including one 5-star, and eleven 4-star recruits.
While all of these players are important in Jones’ “Rise to the Top” campaign, there are a few bricks that are essential to Jones and the Vols making this rise occur.
The headliner of course is 5-star RB Jalen Hurd of Hendersonville, Tenn. Hurd rushed for 3,357 yards and 43 touchdowns as a junior. If Jones can keep Hurd sealed up, the Vols will have a freak of an athlete playing running back against the SEC defenses for the next four years.
Next, the Vols have to take control of the in-state talent over other SEC foes. Jones is persistent in showcasing that Tennessee is the state school and that the Vols represent the whole state. Currently, the Vols have five commits from in-state schools. Jones has to keep schools like Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Vanderbilt (yes, Vanderbilt) from sneaking in and snagging these players away from the Vols’ backyard.
Finally, Jones has four Vol legacies in this class. Dillon Bates, Todd Kelly Jr., Neiko Creamer, and Vic Wharton all come from bloodlines that run orange. Bates, Kelly, and Creamer all had fathers who were standout defensive backs for the Vols. Wharton is the nephew of former Vol basketball player Brandon Wharton and was the first commit in the 2014 class.
Most Coveted Targets Remaining
The Vols have six remaining openings in the 2014 class and there are several desirable targets left on Tennessee’s radar.
Most of the skill positions are full in this class but a spot would definitely be open if Josh Malone decided to don the orange and white in college. Malone, a 4-star receiver from the Nashville area, would fill a need for the Vols and provide Jones another weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Malone is a tall, fast receiver that is rated as the second best player in the state.
The biggest need for the Vols left to fill is on the defensive line. Potential recruits that could bolster that area include DT Charles Mosley, DE Dewayne Hendrix, and DE Derek Barnett. Mosley and Barnett are both in-state recruits.
Mosley is down to Tennessee and Alabama, while Barnett is 50-50 between the Vols and Vanderbilt. Hendrix is a big DE from Illinois that is down to USC, Florida, and Tennessee. All three are 4-star and predicted by 247Sports to commit to Tennessee (Mosley 81%, Barnett 85%, and Hendrix 100%).
Finally, Jones has two more legacies that he could sign in Evan and Eliot Berry. The Berry twins have been talked about on Rocky Top since older brother Eric Berry was playing for the Vols. Evan is a 4-star recruit that could play safety or running back and Eliot is a 3-star player that is looking to play linebacker in college. Bringing in both of the Berry’s and securing six legacies would be huge for Jones.
National Signing Day Prediction
There are five months remaining until NSD and the Vols are rated in the Top-5 across the board for the 2014 class. With 24 commits, Jones still has six openings to fill this class, providing no decommits occur through this season. In all likelihood, the Berry twins will sign with the Vols, as well as Mosley, Barnett, and Hendrix. The only one up in the air is Josh Malone but as of recently it’s starting to look more and more like Vols could be the favorite.