Since he has been the new head coach at the University of Tennessee, Butch Jones has hardly stopped recruiting, promoting, selling his program or working to somehow catch up in the nation's toughest conference.
That hard work paid dividends in a major way Wednesday night when Charlotte's MarQuez North confirmed via his Twitter that he has committed to play for the Vols. North and his family were scheduled to meet in-home with University of North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora on Wednesday, but they instead informed the Tar Heels -- North's other finalist -- that he was no longer considering them.
And with that, the nation's No. 2-ranked wide receiver according to Rivals.com became Jones' newest -- and highest-rated -- commitment. The Mallard Creek High standout is the 37th-best player in the nation according to Rivals. On 247Sports, he is the No. 155 overall player and the 18th-ranked wide receiver.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound elite receiver held offers from many of the top teams in the nation, and ultimately chose Tennessee over North Carolina, Clemson and Florida. His main recruiter was UT running backs coach Jay Graham, and he pledged to the Vols on the heels of an in-home visit with the legendary Vols running back and new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni.
North's size and speed set him apart from most of the other receivers in the country. He is huge and athletic and has been clocked at 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. With the departure of Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter to the NFL, North has the opportunity and the ability to step right in and play for a UT team searching to reload offensive weapons. He is the crown jewel of a receiving class that includes four-star Paul Harris, four-star Ryan Jenkins and three-star Josh Smith.
This is a huge domino to fall for the Vols. North was being recruited hard to UT by his fellow Charlotte product and Tennessee quarterback commitment Riley Ferguson, and hopefully, his pledge will get things moving for the Vols in what could be an eventful final week leading up to National Signing Day. There are several other star players UT is in the final few for, and there was a feeling that if one would just take the plunge, a few may.
- Five-star defensive end Carl Lawson is scheduled to visit Auburn -- the school to which he's currently committed -- this weekend. UT and Clemson are battling for his services.
- Five-star defensive back Vonn Bell seems to potentially favor UT right now over Alabama and Ohio State.
- Four-star defensive end Davin Bellamy is down to Tennessee and Georgia.
- Four-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs -- an Arizona State pledge -- visited UT this past weekend and will choose between the Vols and Sun Devils.
- Four-star linebacker E.J. Levenberry is currently committed to Florida State but is listening hard to the Vols and is slated to visit this weekend.
- Three-star defensive end Jaylen Miller is expected to be a strong Tennessee lean right now
- Four-star running back Johnathan Ford will choose between Tennessee and Auburn.
There are other names out there, but UT has positioned itself to have the opportunity to finish well, thanks to the relentless work by Jones and his assistants. This is a quality commitment and a huge rebound pull for Graham after he struck out with five-star running back Derrick Green, who chose Michigan on Saturday. North can't run the football, but he is a major commitment at a major position of need.
Things were originally expected to shake out in the North sweepstakes on National Signing Day, when he was going to do a hat ceremony at his school, but once word leaked out about his family letting Fedora know he'll be wasting his time by conducting the in-home visit, North confirmed it. Though the family had been to Chapel Hill several times before, it was thought to be a good sign for UT and a red flag for UNC when North's father elected to go fishing rather than take the visit with his son following the family's official visit to Knoxville.
It was there that they saw everything they needed to see, and with North wanting to play at the nation's highest level in the SEC, UT provided him a perfect fit where he could excel early and close to home.
Credit Jones and his staff for this incredible news and possibly a puzzle piece that will help this class come together nicely. North joins Riyahd Jones, Lemond Johnson, A.J. Branisel, Dylan Wiesman, Woody Quinn and Malik Foreman as UT commitments who pledged after Jones came on board.
Welcome to Big Orange Country, MarQuez!