KNOXVILLE — Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us at SEC Country for the latest recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers.
Last Monday morning — at 12:01 to be exact — the recruiting world changed forever.
College coaches across the country flooded folks’ Twitter timelines, retweeting days, months and sometimes even years-old tweets of prospective recruits. With the new NCAA legislation allowing coaches to “endorse” prospects with retweets, likes or favorites, no one has embraced the rule change with more fervor than Tennessee’s Butch Jones.
The Vols fourth-year coach lapped the field last week, pounding the retweet button 108 times before UT even took the practice field for the first time this fall.
— Burns (@LuskSGV) August 1, 2016
Jones’ entire staff is in on the game, too, as receivers coach Zach Azzanni, tight ends coach Larry Scott, secondary assistant Willie Martinez and recruiting director Eric Josephs have all maintained a very visible presence on social media.
“I’ve had to have my thumbs popped a little bit,” Jones joked.
“But our staff has done a great job.”
Scott said the new rules have “changed the game,” reiterating a common catchphrase that recruiting is “the lifeblood” of the program.
“You can come in and coach hard, but the bottom line is you have to have good players and good people,” he said.
Basically, don’t expect Tennessee’s coaches to stop hitting buttons anytime soon.
“It’s been a rule change, and you know what: we’re going to use it the best that we can and not let it interfere with our current team or anything like that,” Jones said.
With the rules, Tennessee can now promote when a prospect is visiting, retweet a commitment or “like” a post from a recruit who gives the Vols a shoutout online.
The new NCAA policy coincided with the first official date to send out written offers to prospective 2017 recruits, too, so many of Tennessee’s commits promoted UT’s latest scholarship graphics.
— Maleik Gray™ (@GrayMaleik) August 5, 2016
— Cj Cotman (@CotmanCj) August 5, 2016
It remains to be seen what effects — if any — bombarding a prospect’s timeline with retweets will have, but Jones is fully embracing a potential unexplored recruiting advantage.
“It’s one of those things that changed in the rules, so we’re going to follow the rules. As we all know here, everything here is about recruiting,” Jones said.
“You win with great players. You win with great character. So it’s kind of a great way to start your morning off, or at night. It’s kind of my mental escape from football for a little bit.
“As we all know, recruiting is all relationship-based, and we’re in the process of building very, very strong bonds and very, very strong relationships that great families have. … Again, I just enjoy that because it’s just about building these relationships.”
Another DL off the board
Tennessee missed out on 4-star defensive end Jordan Williams, as the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Frank W. Cox (Va.) product predictably committed to Clemson on Saturday afternoon.
Williams had fun with Vols fans on Twitter for months, but he had only visited Tennessee once and was never truly a serious candidate to join to the 2017 class.
With just one defensive line spot remaining in the class, Tennessee has zeroed in on South Carolina lineman Matthew Butler and a trio of Georgia defensive ends.
Butler, a 3-star prospect from Raleigh, N.C., recently named UT in his top four schools.
— Matthew Butler (@mattbutler_45) July 30, 2016
Malik Herring, a 4-star prospect and UGA lean, MJ Webb, a 4-star end from Morgan County, Ga., and Michael Allen, a 3-star prospect from Lanier, are all priority targets, too.
Tennessee is also in the mix with 3-star Hampton, Va., end Elijah Conliffe, but the underrated prospect currently favors Alabama.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com