Everybody calm down. Take a step back. Breathe.
National signing day didn’t go all that well for Tennessee — that much is obvious. They missed out on the top talent that they had been chasing over the last couple of months as Olaijah Griffin, Jacob Copeland, Quay Walker and Isaac Taylor-Stuart chose to go elsewhere.
That was disappointing and there’s no way around it, but it’s important to keep a level head here. Think about what this staff had on their plates when they arrived.
They got to Knoxville directly after the circus that was the Tennessee coaching search, which played out over a 25 day period. Tennessee essentially lost about a month of recruiting. What was left of the old staff remained on the trail, but how much good was Brady Hoke and Mike Canales doing out there? Not a whole lot, probably.
Jeremy Pruitt was then tasked with putting together a coaching staff. This had to be done in a hurry with the early signing period just two weeks away. Pruitt and his incomplete staff did really well to sway guys like Dominick Wood-Anderson, Jordan Allen, Jerome Carvin and Jeremy Banks.
With the bulk of players signing in December, Tennessee’s options had narrowed greatly. This was the first year that we have seen the early signing period in action. One clear takeaway that we have is that it’s going to be very tough on new incoming coaches.
Pruitt said as much today in his media availability.
“When you look at the staff that we put together, we come from all over,” Pruitt said. “We had build relationships with other guys to recruit them to other schools. A lot of the guys had already decided where they wanted to go, so you’re way behind to begin with.”
This staff did well to establish relationships and get their foot in the door with top prospects after the early signing period. But think about all of the talent that they missed out on in December, simply due to time constraints.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a lot easier (next year) than it was this time,” Pruitt said. “We’ve already started hosting underclassmen on campus. They keep moving up the process in recruiting. It starts earlier and earlier. I’d hope this time next year that the guys that we’re in here talking about have been to campus more than one time.”
Pruitt noted that 85 percent of the players that Tennessee recruited this cycle hadn’t been to campus. He said that some still hadn’t even been to Knoxville. That’s significant. That fact alone should paint a picture of how tough this process was.
The fact that Tennessee had legitimate shots with big talent should be exciting. They’ve already been hard a work on the 2019 class, too. With a year to go to work, 2019’s immediate results should be much improved.
By the time the dust settled today, the Volunteers ended up with the 20th ranked class in the country, according to 247 Sports. How would this class be viewed if they didn’t get publicly turned down by a few top guys today? They aimed high and fell short, but still came out with a rock solid first effort.
I think we all would have taken a 20th ranked recruiting class had you asked us on Thanksgiving.
“Give this staff a full year,” Pruitt said. “When you look at the rankings next year on National Signing Day, we’re gonna be right at the top.”