When you inherit a defense that is ranked 111th out of 124 Division I FBS teams heading into a bowl season in which you're not participating, you look for immediate help any way you can.
New Tennessee coach Butch Jones continued addressing perhaps the most pressing need on the team Friday with the commitment of three-star junior college cornerback Riyahd Jones. The 6-foot, 186-pound defensive back announced via Twitter that he would join the Vols, ultimately choosing UT over Kansas State and Indiana. Jones will enroll next month and have three years to play two at UT. Given that Tennessee had, statistically, perhaps the worst cornerbacks in school history, Riyahd will have every opportunity to come in immediately and play.
Jones' Twitter message read -- in LeBronion fashion:
im taking my talents to the UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE!!!! #GoVols #SEC #RockyTop #GBO
Butch Jones' hiring of former Auburn secondary coach Willie Martinez has paid dividends already on the recruiting trail. The veteran coach with SEC experience used his established relationship with former Auburn commitment Lemond Johnson to lure him on a visit to Knoxville. Johnson became Jones' first commitment earlier this week. Now after evaluating Riyahd, the new coaching staff decided to offer the Garden City (Kan.) Community College standout, and he too chose UT. The other finalists were Indiana and Kansas State. Riyahd also visited Ole Miss and had offers from Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Georgia recently expressed interest in the cornerback but had not yet offered.
The prospect Jones' odyssey through college has taken an odd road. He was a star player on a 13-1 Carver-Columbus team that featured studs like Isaiah Crowell, Gabe Wright and Deion Bonner. Yet, even though he had offers from some lower-level SEC teams -- and initially committing to Kentucky -- he elected to go to FCS power Georgia Southern where he played a lot as a true freshman and eventually started.
After one season there, he decided to transfer to junior college with hopes of landing the bigger opportunity he first passed on when choosing the Eagles over SEC suitors. Following a season at Garden City, he's getting that chance. Riyahd is a three-star player and the nation's 17-ranked JUCO cornerback according to 247 Sports. He also runs a 4.46 40-yard dash and possesses the size and speed to be an SEC-level cornerback.
Normally, you have concerns about a player you haven't heard of this late in the process. But it's hard to scoff at any JUCO player who KState coach Bill Snyder desperately wants to sign. Also, those Ole Miss and Texas A&M offers mean a whole lot more this year with both of those teams set to bring in impressive classes. Also, the Vols are staring down the barrel of a little more than a month until National Signing Day with half a recruiting class yet to fill and multiple needs.
For Tennessee, it's the perfect opportunity to bring in somebody who can address a dire and immediate need. With Prentiss Waggner and Marsalis Teague out of eligibility and with the Vols being so poor at the position this past season, Jones is a necessity. Prior to Jones' pledge, the Vols had a commitment from just one cornerback -- Cameron Sutton. Johnson will likely start out at nickelback, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a safety, but UT needed some help on the islands. They need more still, especially considering Riyahd's former high school teammate Bonner is indefinitely suspended and his future status with UT remains tenuous at best.
Welcome to Big Orange Country, Riyahd!