In the larger picture of college football, it really doesn’t matter much if a high school player is considered the 25th-best prospect in the country or the 35th-best. But for the individual prospects, that can mean the difference between being anointed a four-star recruit or the coveted five-star designation.
That is also what could make the Class of 2017 a special one in the state of Tennessee. 247Sports unveiled updated composite rankings for the 2017 prospects Wednesday, and one of the newest members of the five-star club is Tee Higgins, a wide receiver from Oak Ridge, Tenn.
In many years, just having one five-star talent in the state is an achievement, but Higgins isn’t alone. JaCoby Stevens, an athlete from Oakland High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., is also a five-star recruit.
If they both remain five-star prospects through the recruiting cycle, this would be only the second time since the 247composite rankings expanded in 2002 that the state of Tennessee has two five-star kids.
Stevens is currently the No. 15 player in the nation, and Higgins is No. 25. There are more Tennessee kids in the top 25 than Georgia, Louisiana and every other SEC state not named Florida and Texas. Georgia has two five-star prospects (UGA commit Richard Lecounte III checks in at No. 29), but Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina have a combined total of one.
The top of the Tennessee crop is not limited to just those two elite players, though. Maleik Gray from LaVergne, Tenn., is currently the No. 33 player in the country. By the end of the recruiting cycle, the 247Sports composite will feature 32 five-star players. If Gray can move up between now and next February, the state of Tennessee would have three five-star prospects for the first time in 15 years of rankings.
Here’s the full list of past Tennessee five-star prospects, along with where they ended up:
2013 – Jalen Ramsey, FSU
2009 – Marlon Brown, UGA
2005 – Patrick Turner, Southern Cal and Michael Oher, Ole Miss
2004 – Demonte Bolden, Tennessee
2002 – Gerald Riggs, Jr., Tennessee
Something very obvious to point out from that list — the Vols have not kept a five-star talent home since 2004. Higgins was committed to Tennessee at one point, but has re-opened his commitment. Stevens was committed to LSU, but is back on the market.
One or two players rarely make or break a recruiting class, but the Vols have a trio of the nation’s best prospects inside the state borders for 2017, and that is a rare opportunity they need to take advantage of.