Posted: 8:25 a.m. Monday, July 22, 2013
By Joel Hollingsworth
This offseason's 100 Days of Vols series naturally lends itself to the There and Then, or, as we'll see as we get closer to kickoff, the Always. Whether it's the undying traditions or the favorite moments, games, players, or coaches of years gone by, it's primarily a conjuring of nostalgia.
But you know one of my favorite things about the Tennessee Volunteers athletics program? It's Butch Jones. Yes, already.
In just the past week, Jonesaddedsixcommits -- four of them four-star prospects -- to a 2014 recruiting class that was already one of the best in the nation. Right now, on July 22, 2013, on the heels of a terribly disappointing era ongoing for four, five, eight, or eleven years (depending on your perspective), the Tennessee Volunteers have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation according to all three of the main recruiting services. And it's not really even close.
For a little bit of perspective, the Vols currently have 2,253 points (Rivals numbers) with room for maybe five or six more players. That point total alone (and remember, we're not done) would have ranked 12th, 6th, 6th, and 7th in each of the last four years' final standings. And I need to remind myself again for the third time in this paragraph alone that it is July, and the point total's only going to grow.
There are still some who have yet to warm up to the idea that recruiting rankings actually do correlate to on-field success. We've been tracking that in our annual preseason magazine since 2009. I haven't updated the numbers for this year yet because we didn't have room for it in the magazine this year, but I'll be doing that shortly and posting the results here at Rocky Top Talk. We do know, however, that last year's figures further validated our prior findings.
What are those prior findings? Since 2005, the national championship team had a rolling four-year recruiting ranking of 2nd, 4th, 4th, 8th, 4th, 13th, 1st, and 1st. The two outliers were Texas in 2005 with Vince Young and Auburn in 2007 with Cam Newton. As last year's runner up, Notre Dame's rolling recruiting ranking was 13th.
Recruiting matters, y'all, and eight years of data suggests that to win the national championship, you have to consistently be in the top four of the rolling recruiting rankings unless you have a superstar quarterback, and even then, you have to be in the top 10 or top 15.
Butch Jones is showing already that he can compete for those prestigious top four spots.
Oh, there are caveats, of course. Jones hasn't coached a single game. No one in the 2014 class has actually signed, and it could all fall apart if Jones's summer recruiting pitch is perceived as snake oil this fall. And it will take more than a single No. 1 class in 2014 to right the ship.
But if Jones can show promise on the field this fall and actually ink the No. 1 recruiting class next February, Tennessee will immediately find itself in the long shot category of teams with rolling recruiting rankings in the Top 15, and the Vols will have momentum, which should help him land another highly-rated class.
And you know what? That's exactly what I think is going to happen. Jones has proven himself in every way that he can so far, and I no longer doubt the man.
The journey may take more than a season or two, but he's brought hope back to Rocky Top. And that's why one of the things I love about the Vols is Butch Jones, already.