KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — 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.
Is Tennessee back?
Everybody wants to know.
The tenor of Tennessee’s offseason has been all about expectations, and we’ll find out soon enough if the renaissance on Rocky Top is real. The Volunteers take the field tonight against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
One thing is certain, though, future Vols unanimously believe the program is on the rise. I polled a number of Tennessee commits on their preseason predictions for UT in 2016.
Championships were a popular theme.
“The program is about to blow up. Tennessee has a lot of talent. Butch Jones is doing a great job recruiting, getting some players in. Some in-state players. I’m trying to get more players to come to Tennessee, too.” – 3-star receiver Princeton Fant (LaVergne High)
“We got a lot of players coming back. We’ve got (Josh) Dobbs. We’ve got (Jalen) Hurd. We’ve got (Alvin) Kamara, and the offensive line so. We’re going to be amazing. We’re going to compete I know that. Having expectations is good. … All the games we had (last season) we could’ve won, 50/50 chances and we’re going to do better at that. I have great confidence we’re going to do good and we’re going to compete no matter what.” – 3-star receiver Jacquez Jones (Clearwater High, Fla.)
“I’m really excited for this season. You got to give Tennessee the respect because of the football (tradition) they’ve had at Tennessee. I feel like we’re going to shock the world. I really feel like we’re going to be in the run for a national championship sooner or later. Hopefully this year, but I know guaranteed when I go to Tennessee we’re going to be in the championship.” – 3-star safety Jaquan Henderson (Newton High, Ga.)
“They’ll be good. I’ve watched those guys workout. They get after it. In practice, workouts. You see those guys and see the kind of work ethic they’re putting in and you just kind of want to be a part of it. You want to be a part of that football tradition at Tennessee, too.” – 3-star offensive lineman Riley Locklear (Spring Valley High, W.Va.)
“I’m curious myself. They return 18 out of 22 starters, so I feel like they should have a pretty good season. … I feel like they’re on the rise.” – 4-star safety Maleik Gray (LaVergne High)
“I think Tennessee is going to be that deal this year. They have a lot of people coming back and a lot of good people coming in. A lot of people have them picked to win the SEC East but I really think they can do more than that.” – 3-star linebacker Solon Page III (Kell High, Ga.)
“I think the players was just real young last year. Alvin Kamara, Jalen Hurd, all those guys. (Jalen) Reeves-Maybin – He’s the leader on the defense. They’re going to be good now and for the next couple years.” – 3-star linebacker Mo Burnam (Salem High, Ga.)
“I think we’re going to have a winning season, better than last year. We’re more experienced. I really think we’re just going to beat everybody. That’s just my opinion.” – 3-star safety Theo Jackson (Overton High)
“That’s a no brainer. They’re definitely a program that will have the (attention) of college football this year. They’re definitely back. I think they’re going to win an SEC Championship and compete for a National Championship. They’re definitely on the rise.” – 3-star cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza (Albany High, La.)
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