The 2017 recruiting class has been talked about for months in Tennessee. Sure, there have been other great classes from within the state’s borders. However, something seems special about this year’s group of high school seniors.
There are six prospects from the state of Tennessee listed in the 247Sports Composite Top 100 ranking. By comparison, there were zero prospects from Tennessee listed in the Top 100 last year. None. Nada.
Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell from White Station High School (Memphis, Tenn.) was the highest rated in-state prospect for the 2016 class. He was ranked No. 161 prospect in the nation before signing with Oregon. The state of Tennessee’s highest prospect this year is Tee Higgins from Oak Ridge (Tenn.) High School. The five-star receiver is rated the No. 16 overall prospect in the country. He’s not alone. Here are the other Top 100 prospects that hail from the Volunteer State:
- Five-star prospect JaCoby Stevens from Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) is the No. 22 overall prospect and the No. 1 athlete in the country.
- Four-star prospect Maleik Gray from LaVergne (Tenn.) High School is the No. 47 prospect in the country. Expected to play linebacker, he is rated the No. 3 athlete in the nation.
- Four-star prospect Trey Smith from University High School (Jackson, Tenn.) is rated the No. 56 prospect and the No. 10 offensive tackle in the country.
- Four-star prospect Ty Chandler from Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, Tenn.) is the No. 82 overall prospect and No. 4 running back in the country.
- Four-star prospect Cordarrian Richardson from Trezevant High School (Memphis, Tenn.) is the No. 87 overall prospect and the No. 5 running back in the country. Richardson committed to Clemson earlier this month.
The numbers are even more stunning when one compares the state of Tennessee to its other union counterparts. Only four states rank higher in Top 100 prospects. Florida has 19. Texas has 15. California has 13. Georgia has eight. Those are states widely known for being high school football powerhouses. Viewing things through a broader scope, a handful of other states have more blue-chippers overall. But even within the scope of 247’s Top 100, it’s still an impressive crop of recruits at the top end.
Some of this year’s “surge,” if you want to call it that, has to be an anomaly. The Vols can’t expect to suddenly have so many elite prospect to choose from every year.
However, Nashville has been a boom town in a time of national economic unrest. While the rest of the country was struggling, Nashville and the mid-state area has been growing at an exponential rate. Families – and their prospective athletes – have been moving to Tennessee in droves. According to a study by the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization, Nashville will be as populated as Denver currently is by 2035.
The city that once had just 750,000 residents in 1965 is expected to have 2.6 million in its metro area by 2035. Many will have high school football players striving for the next level. Nashville is also known to have a strong private school community that prepares prospects for college, both academically and athletically.
While not to the same extent, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis, are also growing. Local lawmakers in Memphis should also be credited with improving schools so that more prospects are eligible
This year’s class in Tennessee could be seen as a blessing or a curse for the Vols. It’s always easier to recruit in-state talent, but that won’t stop other schools from trying to poach top talent, just as the Vols have done in other states. In fact, it’s already happening in Tennessee.
Georgia has shown strong interest in Stevens, who was once committed to LSU. Gray is considering a number of schools. Smith has long had an affinity for Alabama. Chandler has shown interest in several schools. And Richardson, as mentioned above, recently committed to Clemson.
Tennessee can no longer be viewed as a state with minimal talent — at least not for the 2017 class. The Vols have more Top 100 prospects this year than talent-rich Louisiana. Now, if the Vols can just keep that talent close to home.
All rankings and ratings are according to the 247Sports Composite.