KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones is owning the state of Tennessee in the 2018 recruiting class, now with seven commits and more expected to follow.
The Vols are building off the momentum of a strong 2017 class from the Volunteer State, which included Jones out-recruiting Alabama and Ohio State for the nation’s No. 1 player, offensive lineman Trey Smith from Jackson, Tenn.
Not everyone is so impressed with Tennessee’s in-state talent, however, and curiously the most recent criticism comes from a sports journalist who covers a football program that the Vols have beaten 31 of the last 32 years.
The talented Matt Jones of KentuckySportsRadio.com was hosting in place of Paul Finebaum when he suggested that Tennessee — along with Notre Dame and Nebraska — “will never be great college football programs again.”
Jones’ reasoning was that those three schools don’t enjoy the advantages they once did of being among the more heavily televised, and now that they have a “normal recruiting base” they can no longer dominate in recruiting.
While there is some truth the to Tennessee’s television advantage no longer being as strong — the Vols were, however, part of ESPN’s GameDay three times last season — there’s been nothing “normal” about the in-state talent of late.
The growth of the Middle Tennessee region has led to a much richer talent pool than in the 1990s, when Jones was referring to the Vols having a televised advantage.
Further, Jones’ comments ignore the success Tennessee has had recruiting Atlanta, which, while being in a different state, is considerably closer (3 hours drive) than in-state city Memphis (6 hours).
Then there’s Jarrett Guarantano, the nation’s top dual-threat QB in the 2017 class, who chose Tennessee over Ohio State even without the Vols having the television advantage of which Jones’ spoke.
Tennessee is just four years removed from its historic low, a 2-14 mark vs. SEC teams in 2011 and 2012, but Jones has built some momentum with back-to-back Top 25 seasons that some other media seem to be ignoring.
SEC Country’s Mike Griffith and WNML’s Josh Ward discuss the momentum the Vols’ currently have after securing grad-transfer Shaq Wiggins and adding another top in-state target on today’s podcast.o