Butch Jones can’t have enough receivers. It’s almost an addiction.
The Tennessee coach regularly plays three- and four-receiver sets, rotating wideouts throughout the game. It’s very likely he’ll never be happy with his depth at the position. That’s a valuable recruiting tool since the Vols can offer early playing time to almost any competent receiver prospect.
Take a look at receiver Jauan Jennings. He was a freshman quarterback in August and ended up playing receiver in 10 games this season.
Jones has said Tennessee’s depth at wideout is “night and day” compared to what it was when he was hired to lead the Vols in 2012. But although it’s better, Jones wants more.
That makes the latest developments in Georgia very relevant to the Vols. First, the No. 1 receiver in the nation, Kyle Davis from Archer High School (Lawrenceville, Ga.), committed to Auburn on Wednesday. The Vols were always in the trail position with Davis, but he was certainly one of the top receivers on their board. That’s a loss for Tennessee.
Then, there’s Mecole Hardman. The 5-star athlete from Elbert County High School (Elberton, Ga.) said this week he wouldn’t silently commit to any school as previously planned before he announces his final decision. That can only be good news for Tennessee.
The longer Hardman thinks about his decision, the better it is for the Vols. Why? Because that shows doubt. The easy decision is to pick the in-state Georgia Bulldogs. Hardman could have made that decision months ago. He’s still not willing to make it even silently. Doubt is good for Tennessee.
Hardman’s decision could also be affected by the way the two programs are trending. Georgia coach Mark Richt has had to defend himself and his coaches on several occasions. Moreover, visiting 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason the Sunday before a game seems like a hollow public relations stunt since UGA needed overtime to beat Georgia Southern.
On the other hand, Tennessee could win its fifth consecutive game Saturday and has garnered national attention as an up-and-coming program.
It seems reasonable to think Tennessee might have the upper hand in some recruiting battles against the Bulldogs. Hardman would be a monster pickup.
The Vols currently have two receivers committed for the 2016 class. One is a junior college transfer, 3-star prospect Jeff George from Dodge City Junior College (Dodge City, Kansas). The other is also a 3-star prospect, Brandon Johnson from American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.). It will take more than that to provide the depth Jones wants.
The Vols lost out on Davis on Wednesday, but his decision to leave Georgia should be viewed as a positive by other schools trying to recruit the Peach State. Prospects are willing to go elsewhere as Georgia flounders.
That should give the Vols hope for Hardman.