Of course, it's not good news when the number one quarterback in the Class of 2017 decides to drop his commitment to Tennessee and move on to Clemson. Hunter Johnson did as much tonight. And hey, Clemson is ranked first in the nation right now, has a chance to win the national championship, and sent a quarterback to the Heisman Trophy presentation last week. Plenty of reasons the Tigers look good right now.
Deshaun Watson will be a junior next year; who knows if he'll stay in school or go pro. What we do know, and I'm sure what Hunter Johnson and his family know, is Clemson didn't sign a four-star quarterback last year and
doesn't have any on the books for 2016 only has one on the list for 2016. Opportunity isn't just knocking there, it's sending invitations and asking for an RSVP, which Johnson gave.
Meanwhile in Knoxville, Josh Dobbs will enter his senior season next fall. Behind him will be sophomore-to-be Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Sheriron Jones. And the Vols hold a 2016 commitment from Jarrett Guarantano, the nation's number one dual threat quarterback.
So, who's going to be the quarterback for Clemson in 2017? Probably Hunter Johnson. Who's going to be the quarterback for the Vols in 2017? Well, probably not Hunter Johnson...but Tennessee had already restocked their options before he initially committed.
This situation is a friendly reminder that it's 2015 in Knoxville, not 2009 or 2010 or 2013 or any point in the last eight years. It's foolish to pretend the Vols aren't disappointed by tonight's news. But it's also foolish to act like now we're screwed.
For eight years, we've placed the same ridiculous expectations on our highest rated recruits the rest of college football's crazy fanbases do. Only for us, there wasn't any other option. It wasn't, "This kid could turn into an All-American!" It's been, "This kid could turn into an All-American, and he'll get plenty of chances right away because he has to start as a freshman!" From Lane Kiffin's class until basically now, that's the way it's been. Bryce Brown! Nu'Keese! Da'Rick and Justin Hunter! Cam Clear! Cordarrelle Patterson! Riley Ferguson! The '14 Legacy Class! Kahlil's Bucket Hat!
Some of those kids worked out well (and a few right away), some didn't. Others, most recently Darrin Kirkland Jr., were a little lower down the "must win Heismans as freshmen" list but still became consistent starters as true freshmen. Butch Jones has obviously done a great job getting talented players to Knoxville.
And he's done it long enough now to where, when you look at the 2016 commitment list? Who has to step in right away and start? Nevermind that, who has to step in right away and meaningfully contribute? Where do we say, "If that freshman doesn't pan out right away we're in trouble"?
This is what it means to be healthy again as a program. And one of the places that will be most true next fall is at quarterback. So, best of luck to Hunter Johnson. But take a deep breath and remember how far we've come. Tennessee is going to be just fine.