Vols complete class with 32 recruits to move 'program forward'

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL
Webb senior Todd Kelly Jr., center, puts on the UT hat, along with his grandmother, Mary Davis, left, and parents, Renee’ and Todd Kelly and Webb football coaches for a ceremonial signing to play football for the University of Tennessee during National Signing Day activities on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. UT added 18 signees on Wednesday.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Webb senior Todd Kelly Jr., center, puts on the UT hat, along with his grandmother, Mary Davis, left, and parents, Renee’ and Todd Kelly and Webb football coaches for a ceremonial signing to play football for the University of Tennessee during National Signing Day activities on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. UT added 18 signees on Wednesday.

Butch Jones introduces early enrollees

On a National Signing Day in which ESPN cameras lurked around every corner and Tennessee used three live video streams to beam footage to fans, coach Butch Jones offered viewers everything they craved except one thing.

Suspense.

“There was basically no drama today,” said Jones in a summation Wednesday that was a mix of excitement about his new players and concern about the outsized expectations being heaped on them.

The Vols signed 18 new prospects to join the 14 who already enrolled in January, creating a massive class that Jones hopes will provide an injection of speed and talent into a program that has suffered four consecutive losing seasons.

“A few months ago I sat up here and told you in order for us to move this program forward, we needed to create depth, we needed to create competition and we needed to improve our overall team speed, our size, our quickness, our explosiveness,” Jones said. “I believe we were able to do that.”

They did so with very little late intrigue, although there were a handful of changes that impacted the final composition of the class.

The Vols lost defensive lineman Cory Thomas, a “soft” verbal commitment since November, to Mississippi State. That defection was a surprise only because most expected him to switch to Clemson.

UT essentially replaced Thomas with Michael Sawyers, a defensive lineman from Nashville who had been committed to Vanderbilt before the departure of coach James Franklin to Penn State.

The Vols also appeared to pare two verbal commitments off their list, nudging aside linebacker Jerome Dews and offensive lineman Orlando Brown.

Dews still participated in a signing ceremony at his Maryland high school wearing an orange blazer. He said he plans to enroll at a prep school.

Brown landed quickly with a new team, signing with Oklahoma later in the afternoon.

After those subtractions, Tennessee’s 32-man class is actually considerably smaller than it appeared it might be just a few months ago. It’s impossible to say with certainty how many scholarships Tennessee has to offer, but the most reasonable guess is 31 — the NCAA-maximum 25 in 2014, plus six more that could be counted against 2013.

Jones said all the talk of a numbers crunch was overblown, but his comments suggested that Tennessee planned to sign more players than it had scholarships to give.

“It’s very simple,” Jones said. “We were able to count numbers backward, count a couple numbers forward. We had a plan.”

Asked to elaborate on counting forward, Jones described what is commonly called “gray-shirting.”

“Sometimes an individual will delay their enrollment for a semester,” he said.

Jones did not say who might be a gray-shirt candidate. It was also unclear if Dews would fall into that category. Although Dews seemed eager to enroll at UT after his prep school stint, he will be free to attend any university and the Vols could choose not to recruit him in the next cycle.

In any case, the math is unlikely to obscure what will likely be the highest ranked Tennessee class in several years.

The Vols are ranked No. 7 in the 247Sports Composite, which uses input from every major recruiting service.

The Vols finished No. 8 in 2010, former coach Derek Dooley’s first year at the helm, and No. 7 in 2009, Lane Kiffin’s lone season.

The SEC remains the nation’s most talent-rich conference, with seven of the top 10 teams in the 247 Composite. The Vols are below Alabama (first), LSU (second), Texas A&M (third) and Auburn (sixth) and ahead of Georgia (eighth) and Florida (ninth). Auburn jumped ahead of Tennessee on Wednesday in 247’s rankings.

Among the players who signed on Wednesday and will arrive this summer, safety Todd Kelly and linebacker Dillon Bates were rated the highest by recruiting analysts.

Kelly and Bates are among four players in the class with fathers who played Tennessee football.

That family connection, combined with a strong crop of in-state talent, helped give the Vols an early boost in this class.

The rest of the signees were convinced by the long-term relationships that Jones promised to forge after he scrambled to assemble the 2013 class just weeks after being hired.

“The relationships and the trust factor have been over a year in the making,” he said.

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Comments » 16

Tao_of_Tennessee writes:

I thought there were five signees whose father played at UT...Creamer, Kelly, Bates, Berry, and Berry.

broleb44#1437447 writes:

how does 247 come up with such a low rating, when scout has tn #2, and rivals has them #5, if 247 is using a composite of the major services, maybe they are using espn math, oh I see 247 added 2 plus 5 = 7, sorry I missed that.

ewoodbery writes:

in response to broleb44#1437447:

how does 247 come up with such a low rating, when scout has tn #2, and rivals has them #5, if 247 is using a composite of the major services, maybe they are using espn math, oh I see 247 added 2 plus 5 = 7, sorry I missed that.

I believe Scout currently has UT 4th and Rivals and ESPN have UT 5th.

But the Composite doesn't simply average the rankings. They use the points assigned to each player by the recruiting services to weigh each team before ranking.

As it happens, the 5, 6 and 7 teams in the 247Composite are all very close together. And in fact UT was 6th this morning before Auburn moved just ahead.

-- Evan

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

I doubt very seriously if Butch and his staff put a lot of stock in how the rating services rate his signees. I'm quite certain the recruiting staff spends 10 times more time evaluating these players than the scouting services do. Who do you trust more, Butch and his staff, or the recruiting services in determining the skill level of these players. For me it's a no brainer.

broleb44#1437447 writes:

in response to ewoodbery:

I believe Scout currently has UT 4th and Rivals and ESPN have UT 5th.

But the Composite doesn't simply average the rankings. They use the points assigned to each player by the recruiting services to weigh each team before ranking.

As it happens, the 5, 6 and 7 teams in the 247Composite are all very close together. And in fact UT was 6th this morning before Auburn moved just ahead.

-- Evan

just checked the latest rivals 5, scout 4, espn 5, usa 5. I suppose simple math no longer works. how did these 4 rating services come up with their ratings, I see no indications of a 7 from either. I am convinced your composite ranking is just bs, in order too make 247 different, and make people think you know bo, so they will subscribe to 247. No offense.

Caspian writes:

A large part of successful recruiting has to do with addressing specific needs of your team. You could recruit 10 5-star running backs, 8 5-star defensive ends, and 7 5-star quarterbacks. It would score high, but improve your team very little. And then there's the attitude/character/academic aspect, as well.

oldster writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

I doubt very seriously if Butch and his staff put a lot of stock in how the rating services rate his signees. I'm quite certain the recruiting staff spends 10 times more time evaluating these players than the scouting services do. Who do you trust more, Butch and his staff, or the recruiting services in determining the skill level of these players. For me it's a no brainer.

Well, Jones recruited Peterman while he was at Cincinnati. What does that say about Jones' ability to assess talent?

FWBVol writes:

in response to oldster:

Well, Jones recruited Peterman while he was at Cincinnati. What does that say about Jones' ability to assess talent?

You must be very much the judge of football talent if you can ascertain what kind of QB Peterman is based on one half against Florida and mop up duty in three other games. I think I'll stick with the guys that are paid to know what they are doing.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to oldster:

Well, Jones recruited Peterman while he was at Cincinnati. What does that say about Jones' ability to assess talent?

Well, KNS continues to let you post your whinning BS on here, so what does that say about them. Why don't you just JUMP......JUMP, MAN, JUMP

jakethevolguy writes:

Speaking of math, how does Rivals have Ohio State as #3 with 1 five star, 15 four stars and 7 three stars and UT at #5 with 2 five stars, 16 four stars and 13 three stars? Their math just doesn't add up. Are they affiliated with ESPN? If so, that would answer that question.

johndavid writes:

in response to jakethevolguy:

Speaking of math, how does Rivals have Ohio State as #3 with 1 five star, 15 four stars and 7 three stars and UT at #5 with 2 five stars, 16 four stars and 13 three stars? Their math just doesn't add up. Are they affiliated with ESPN? If so, that would answer that question.

They have a rating more specific than just 3,4 or 5 stars. A player can be a high 4 or a low 4.

slb1zellwood#1421797 writes:

in response to gc_scvol:

Well, KNS continues to let you post your whinning BS on here, so what does that say about them. Why don't you just JUMP......JUMP, MAN, JUMP

If the oldster didn't whine about something what the heck else could he do with his miserable life. Some people were born to whine about everything including life itself

gc_scvol writes:

in response to slb1zellwood#1421797:

If the oldster didn't whine about something what the heck else could he do with his miserable life. Some people were born to whine about everything including life itself

It never ceases to amaze me, how some people have nothing better to do than complain. Must be really miserable in their little self imposed prisons. I can't imagine being that unhappy.

ewoodbery writes:

in response to broleb44#1437447:

just checked the latest rivals 5, scout 4, espn 5, usa 5. I suppose simple math no longer works. how did these 4 rating services come up with their ratings, I see no indications of a 7 from either. I am convinced your composite ranking is just bs, in order too make 247 different, and make people think you know bo, so they will subscribe to 247. No offense.

Simple math would be a poor way of determining the best team.

To use a simplified example,

Ranking A
1. Tennessee 100 points
2. Vanderbilt 50
3. Memphis 10

Ranking B
1. Vanderbilt 100
2. Tennessee 90
3. Memphis 10

Ranking C
1. Memphis 100
2. Tennessee 90
3. Vanderbilt 80

Tennessee's "average ranking" is No. 2. But that would not be an accurate reflection of the consensus, assuming you want to weigh each evaluation equally. In that case, Tennessee would be No. 1.

That's essentially what 247Sports Composite does.

gglardon50#417841 writes:

Wow,Wow. What a team Jones has gotten here. Start talking National championship!!!!!!!!!!!!!Thats right National Championship!!!!!!!
Oh not for Tennessee they will finish 5-7 again but someone will win the National Championship

gc_scvol writes:

in response to gglardon50#417841:

Wow,Wow. What a team Jones has gotten here. Start talking National championship!!!!!!!!!!!!!Thats right National Championship!!!!!!!
Oh not for Tennessee they will finish 5-7 again but someone will win the National Championship

June 6, 2007. Nuff said.

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