KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s haul of eight commits in one day generated a lot of buzz and catapulted the Vols toward the top of the recruiting rankings.
The ultimate relevance of those commits, however, is up for debate.
On the surface, the Orange Carpet recruiting event June 18 was a slam dunk that drew praise from the most famous of Vols’ fans.
“Tennessee has got a lot of players this year, which is great, it’s exciting,” exclaimed none other than Volunteers quarterback legend Peyton Manning. “Coach (Butch) Jones and his staff are doing a great job in recruiting.”
Critics, however, are able to point out that seven of the eight commits were rated as 3-star talents, according to the 247Sports composite.
While the Vols moved into the top 10 in the 247Sports composite rankings, the strength of the class is quantity. It begs the question, are the Vols are loading up on in commitments in the Class of 2017 too soon? And just how many of the current 17 commits will actually sign next Feb. 1?
Indeed, 4-star receiver KD Nixon de-committed from Tennessee’s 2017 class on Sunday night.
Tennessee is behind other SEC championship contenders when it comes to the average rating of its recruits and the number of 4-star or 5-star prospects at this point in the cycle.
The caliber of the commits can and will be argued. Few things in sports are as subjective and fluid as recruiting rankings.
But receiver Jacquez Jones, a Tennessee commit since May 20 who attended the Orange Carpet festivities, has his doubts as to how many of the recent 2017 additions will stay firm with their pledges.
“It (June 18) was a great day, but I just want all those guys to stay loyal to the Vol nation,” Jones said. “A lot of guys committed, but some talked about taking other visits. They need to understand they need to stay loyal.
“I mean, those guys taking other visits, that would be like if a coach were to keep recruiting people at your position.”
Which, of course, begs the question of what Tennessee’s coaching staff will do should the Vols win the SEC East and make a championship drive. A big season could help Tennessee’s chances to land better players.
Knoxville Sports Radio WNML host Josh Ward said he expects the Vols’ recruiting picture to change, one way or another.
“I don’t think they’ll all be 3-stars by signing day, (and) I don’t think they’ll all sign with Tennessee either,” Ward said on Sports Source, a TV show on WATE-6. “Some of these guys, if Tennessee decides it doesn’t want these players, they will move them out in favor of a 4- or 5-star player in January-February.
“Whether you like that or not, in terms of signing big-time players, they will go find those guys.”
Regardless of the number of current commits who actually end up singing in the class, Tennessee generated much-needed positive offseason publicity.
“It has caused a lot of momentum — a lot of momentum, a lot of positive energy,” Butch Jones said in a 247Sports story last week. “And I think it speaks to the positive energy and the excitement we have surrounding our program.
“With what we have have here now, what we’ve built and what we’ll continue to build, individuals want to be a part of our program now.”
Jones has made it clear he will go to great lengths to improve the program’s image, be it taking eight commitments in one day, or driving a $220,000 sports car.
Here’s a look at the commits from Tennessee’s June 18 Orange Carpet Day haul, complete with rankings and other notable offers they received:
DL LaTrell Bumphus
6-3, 232, Hardin County HS, Savannah, Tenn.
Rankings: 13th in state, No. 440 nationally
Notable offers: Alabama, Oregon, LSU
RB Trey Coleman
5-11, 213, West Monroe HS, West Monroe, La.
Rankings: 42nd in state, No. 900 nationally
Notable offers: Arkansas, Mississippi State
WR Princeton Fant
6-2, 208, LaVergne HS, LaVergne, Tenn.
Rankings: 17th in state, No. 526 nationally
Notable offers: LSU, Louisville, Miami (Fla.)
LB Jaquan Henderson
6-1, 205, Newton HS, Covington, Ga.
Rankings: 44th in state, No. 400 nationally
Notable offers: Michigan, UCLA, LSU
CB Theo Jackson
6-2, 176, Overton HS, Nashville, Tenn.
Rankings: 16th in state, No. 521 nationally
Notable offers: LSU, Louisville, Vanderbilt
DE Tre Lawson
6-6, 247, North Augusta HS, North Augusta, S.C.
Rankings: 8th in state, No. 540 nationally
Notable offers: Florida State, USC, Ole Miss
OL Jordan Tucker
6-7, 335, Roswell HS, Roswell, Ga.
Rankings: 67th in state, No. 686 nationally
Notable offers: South Carolina, Maryland, North Carolina
WR Alontae Taylor (2018 class)
6-0, 180, Coffee County HS, Manchester, Tenn.
Rankings*: 6th in state, No. 237 nationally
Notable offers: Ole Miss, Louisville, Georgia Tech