Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
The Vols solidified the commitment of massively important defensive lineman Jason Carr. How could that be considered a catalyst for the class?
New Tennessee coach Butch Jones received a commitment from a player on Tuesday night who already had been committed to the Volunteers for nearly a year.
So, why is it such a big deal?
Well, when you're coming off your third consecutive losing season and the nation's best recruiting program [Alabama] and hottest recruiting program [Ole Miss] come calling with one of your prospects, it's always a reason to sweat.
That's why it was massive news that Memphis 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end/tackle Jason Carr informed Jones and defensive line coach at an in-home visit Tuesday night that he has solidified his UT commitment, according to Ryan Callahan of GoVols247. The national champion Crimson Tide made a major push for Carr during an official visit to Tuscaloosa this weekend. Carr witnessed the championship parade, stood in the glare of all those crystal balls and ultimately told Nick Saban "thanks but no thanks." That even made national news on our network.
It's rare that you beat Alabama for a player it really wants on the recruiting trail these days -- which is a testament to the position that program is currently in -- so when you do, it's cause for pause and perhaps a high-five with an empty cubicle around you. At least, that was my reaction when I read the news this morning.
The Vols hope this is the first domino to fall in the good-news category leading up to National Signing Day. While they aren't necessarily the clear-cut leaders for any of these players, UT still finds itself in the thick of races for five-star running back Derrick Green, five-star defensive back Vonn Bell, five-star defensive end Carl Lawson, four-star defensive end Davin Bellamy, four-star wide receiver MarQuez North, four-star wide receiver Shelton Gibson, four-star wide receiver Tyler Boyd, four-star running back Johnathan Ford, four-star offensive lineman Christian Morris, three-star offensive lineman Chongo Kondolo, three-star defensive end Jaylen Miller, four-star offensive tackle and soft commitment Dan Skipper, three-star running backs JoJo Kemp and Peyton Barber, and several others.
Tennessee hopes to secure a commitment from Miller this week during an in-home visit. The Gaffney, S.C., product with offers from Nebraska, Florida, and several ACC programs, among others, visited UT this past weekend and has the Vols way out front. Maybe that will be the next big chip to fall. The Vols will also try to capitalize on the momentum it built with Florida State commit Bellamy on this past weekend's visit when they have an in-home with the prospect this week as well.
Then, this weekend marks perhaps the biggest pivot-point yet. Green will announce his college of choice on Saturday afternoon. Where that was once thought to be Michigan first with Tennessee and Auburn trailing, there have been recent reports that Green is torn on what he wants to do and where he wants to go. Jay Graham has kept UT in the race and the Vols are a dark horse to land him.
Also, UT will try to keep making up considerable ground on Bell. Following Bell's official visit to his leader -- Alabama -- this past weekend, Jones and the entire defensive staff visited Bell in his home on Monday. The lifelong UT fan enjoyed the visit, and the Vols reportedly did nothing but help themselves heading into this upcoming weekend's official visit to Knoxville and the "Vonn Bell Day" coaches have planned.
Bell is a desperate need for the Vols -- mainly because he's a versatile defensive back in the Eric Berry mold who can play safety or cornerback. He's a five-star who is a Chattanooga resident, and the Vols lost a ton of ground with him with Derek Dooley's lax recruiting of him and the coaching change. Jones and his staff have charged hard, but whether the momentum will be enough to secure his commitment is unclear. Right now, the Tide has the momentum, but according to Callahan's story on Carr, the jumbo defensive end is coming back to Knoxville this weekend on an unofficial visit just to recruit Bell.
Bell and Carr have become pretty good friends throughout the recruiting process, and both took in Tuscaloosa this past weekend. Like the UT coaches will try and do, Carr will attempt to sell Bell on how much he is needed in Knoxville and on going somewhere where you are needed vs. where you are wanted.
Then, there's the looming visit of Lawson to Auburn, the team he's currently committed to. The Vols have a ton of momentum with the stud defensive end, but if he visits Auburn the last weekend of the recruiting season, all bets are off. UT doesn't want him to take that visit and hope to get a commitment from Lawson soon.
There are so many story lines left for Tennessee in this recruiting season, but it's not hyperbole to say the work Jones and his staff have done on the recruiting trail in such a short amount of time has exceeded any of our expectations. The reception he has received from parents, families, coaches and recruits themselves bode well for the future. The relationships he already has patched that Dooley broke down and the ones he is trying to build for the future have gotten off to a stellar start.
While it's still very much up-in-the-air, this recruiting class is on the brink of being solid despite crumbling to the point of embarrassment in the days following Dooley's departure. If just a few more dominoes fall, the Vols could be looking at a class that exceeded their expectations in a recruiting season that all too often is lost when a change of coaching regimes is made.
Carr is a massive victory for this football program in recruiting. Now, we'll wait and see if any of the other pieces begin falling into place.