Tennessee football coach Butch Jones may not be having as much success recruiting in the Volunteer State as he’d hoped in the 2017 cycle, but the rest of the prospects aren’t noticing too much.
With Thursday night’s pledge of Mississippi receiver Jordan Murphy to the Volunteers following a visit, Jones has secured four verbal pledges in the past week from three different states.
While a lot can (and will) change on UT’s commitment list between now and national signing day with tons of top targets still remaining, the Vols currently have 22 commitments.
Anybody complaining that only three are 4-star prospects on the 247Sports composite rankings should look at offer sheets. They should also recall that this method of recruiting—loading up on good players and then upgrading if opportunities present themselves—is the same way Jones built all his classes in Knoxville.
VolQuest.com’s Rob Lewis noted the number of remaining spots in this class shrinking isn’t something which UT fans should fret:
Obviously, Butch Jones has always viewed scholarship numbers as more of a ‘suggestion’ as opposed to a hard and fast rule, but no matter how creative the Vols get going forward, space is getting tight. That’s even more noteworthy considering some of the guys Tennessee is still in play with not just at receiver but all over the board.
Losing nearby 5-star receiver Tee Higgins to Clemson still stings, but the Vols’ momentum on the trail continues.
Murphy is a 6’1″, 168-pound target from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who had offers from Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, among others, and he chose the Vols.
His commitment follows that of Florida speedster athlete CJ Cotman on Wednesday night, which was surprising considering how many suitors the 5’11”, 180-pound Clearwater cornerback had. He had offers from the “Big Three” Florida schools, along with Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon and virtually everybody else.
Though he’s a Composite 3-star player, his offer sheet is as good as anybody’s. He’s a dynamic athlete who is one of the fastest recruits in a state known for churning out burners, and while he told GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan that he’s planning on taking all five official visits, it’s a big early get for UT and recruiter Larry Scott.
Cotman is listed by some services as an all-purpose running back, but he’s the kind of athlete who can play a lot of different positions at the next level, and the Vols love his speed and athleticism at corner. He may be the last player UT takes at the position in this cycle.
The discussed duo of Murphy and Cotman are important pieces to Tennessee’s future, but they weren’t the biggest news of the week.
That came on Tuesday when Virginia Beach brothers Breyon and Brandon Gaddy decided to commit to Tennessee over Clemson and others. It was a nice “gotcha” for the Vols after the Tigers have dominated them in-state so far this year. But their commitment is much bigger than that.
The Bishop Sullivan Catholic duo had been leaning to UT for a while, and they give Tennessee three potential defensive linemen from the Tidewater, Virginia, area in this class, joining Eric Crosby.
“Every time I went there, it felt like home,” Breyon Gaddy told 247Sports’ Ryan Bartow. “It felt it was a family there. I like the coaches and the players on the team.”
Breyon Gaddy is a definite defensive tackle, tossing around his massive, 6’5″, 335-pound frame on the interior in the mold of current Tennessee tackle Kahlil McKenzie. VolQuest.com’s Paul Fortenberry likened Gaddy to McKenzie in a tweet upon his commitment as well:
But Brandon Gaddy could play several positions, including end or on the offensive line. There aren’t many 289-pounders who can move like this:
With two huge linemen targets remaining from that area in Jordan Williams and Elijah Conliffe, it’s possible the Vols could fill out most of their line class from that hotbed. With Williams, it’s yet another Tennessee-Clemson battle, and Alabama offering Conliffe this week could make that a tough pull.
But Tennessee has already done extremely well in that area regardless of the decisions of Williams or Conliffe. Considering defensive line was one of the two biggest needs in this class along with running back, it’s huge Tennessee has done so well in Virginia Beach.
Defensive line coach Steve Stripling and receivers coach Zach Azzanni have done some major work scouting that area and securing commitments. The Gaddy brothers had offers from Florida State, Georgia and many others.
Jones may not be doing a ton of head-turning with commitments from the top prospects in the nation, but the Vols are putting together a quality class.
With some players inevitably looking around, there will be plenty of turnover in both directions; Tennessee will lose some guys it doesn’t want to, and it will cut some loose. It’s the nature of the recruiting game, and it’s the way the Vols have restocked the shelves in the past four classes since Jones has been in town.
But the four players UT secured this week are definite keepers and guys who will outfit the roster and keep Tennessee playing at a high level moving forward. These are the types of players who’d be takes by many of the programs in the region.
As Tennessee narrows its focus to players such as elite 4-star offensive tackle Trey Smith, Williams, star running backs Cam Akers and Ty Chandler and stud defensive back Deangelo Gibbs, among others, more attention can be spent on marquee talent down the stretch.
If the Vols add four or five more centerpiece-type players to this class, it has the potential to be one of the best put together by Jones in his Tennessee tenure.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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Source: Bleacher Report -SEC Football