2009 was a banner year for UT recruiting. With the a Top Ten class the sky was the limit for the Vols with Bryce Brown, Marsalis Teague, and Nu’Keese Richardson. In 2010 Tennessee had the 9th best recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals. With Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Rajion Neal, and Da’Rick Rogers and Matt Simms the coaching staff in Knoxville was building a contender in the SEC East for years to come. In 2011 UT had the 13th ranked class with Maurice Couch, Antonio Richardson, and Justin Worley coming to Knoxville that was supposed to put them over the top.
Vandy had a horrible run by Tennessee’s standards in 2009 as they were ranked #71 with Zac Stacy, Wesley Tate, and Walker May in their recruiting class. In 2010 Vanderbilt improved to the 61st best recruiting class with Chris Boyd, Chase Garnham, Kenny Ladler, Jordan Rodgers, Carey Spear and some two star receiver named Jordan Matthews coming to West End. The next year the Commodores regressed and were ranked #71 again with Jerron Seymour and Steven Scheu as the most notable guys coming in under Coach Franklin in first class.
When you look at the rankings UT should’ve blown Vanderbilt out the past two years. In 2012 Tennessee had the best players when you look at who got drafted where in the NFL Draft, but egos and guys who didn’t want to be team players didn’t come together and they got blown out in Nashville and it cost their head coach his job. Now the Dores have won the last two and since Vol fans can’t toot their horn about wins or bowl games they have to brag about their recruiting classes.
Butch Jones is trying to get over 30 kids for this year’s class and it looks like he could pull it off as many of the rankings have him with a Top 5 class. When you listen to UT fans talk the cupboards are pretty bare and Jones has to reload to get some talent in Knoxville to be competitive. In 2012 the Vols had the 17th best class and last year Jones’ class was ranked at 21. #17 and #21 are not that bad by Vanderbilt’s standards. But something must not have been right with those rankings for Tennessee to want to basically start over with year’s class.
I know Vanderbilt fans are still feeling the loss of James Franklin’s departure and the recruits he took with him. The Dore’s class went from Top 25 to back in the 80′s or 90′s to some recruiting rankings but all is not lost. Vanderbilt redshirted a lot of kids last year. 4 star QB Johnathon McCrary was redshirted and some say he is much better than Patton Robinette. Derek Mason’s first recruiting class isn’t going to be what fans in Nashville had grown accustomed to under Franklin but he can still bring in some guys and fill their needs. And if he doesn’t get them this year he has more scholarships to offer next year. The same can’t be said for Butch Jones, who is shooting his wad this year. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman told reporters this week at the Super Bowl press conference that he credits Derek Mason with teaching him, a meager 3 star cornerback coming out of high school how to play the game. So maybe, just maybe the Dores will be ok with what they have.
It is a sting to Commodore’s pride to lose the commits they had but it’s just a bump in the road as long as the new coaching staff can coach up the new recruits and get everyone on the same page. Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley showed that just because you have 4 and 5 star recruits at every position doesn’t mean you are going to dominate each Saturday. Current UT coach Butch Jones didn’t do much with his 4 and 5 star recruits he inherited last year either. But James Franklin showed how to win with two and three stars and the guys on West End know it can be done. Sure it’s nice to have a bunch of kids that a lot of schools wanted but in the end if they can’t win together what’s the use?
I guess we’ll see how it shakes out in a few years but right now it looks like the stars beside the kids names don’t always equate to points on the scoreboard and Ws in the win column.