Trust me, I already feel the heat from Knoxville based off my headline. It may currently be 53 degrees in Nashville, but for me, it’s more like 125 with about 90% humidity.
I promise I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, but do with me as you will.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Tennessee Volunteers have been on a helluva streak when it comes to the recruiting for the 2021 football season. Over the last couple of weeks, Jeremy Pruitt and co. have been on a historic run (program-wise) when it comes to recruiting. As of now, the Vols hold the No. 2 class in the country. For the sake of alleviating curiosity, the Ohio State Buckeyes are currently No. 1.
There’s plenty to be excited about and everything should work out as long as everyone stays healthy. Pruitt has shown the ability to develop players and has helped them get to the next level when it comes to what they can do on a football field.
But at the same time, it’s still early, and you have to wonder if this team will still be the No. 2 class - or if they will even finish in the top-10 - when the 2021 cycle wraps up.
It’s simple math, really. Just take a look at the Vols’ current 2021 class:
As you can see, the average number for each recruit is 0.8969, whereas 2020’s class finished with a 0.8992 mark.
On paper, this means the 2020 class is rated slightly higher than the 2021 class. Just for a refresher, the 2020 finished as the 10th-best class in the country. Now, we aren’t actually comparing players, here, just numbers. But, if the Vols continue this pace, then they will likely finish around 10th-15th in the country based off of last year’s recruiting cycle.
That’s a bit of a tumble from their current position.
It’s never a good idea to base anything off of one sample, though, so I decided to look a little deeper into previous recruiting classes related to the both the Vols and the other top classes from around the country. From 2011-2020, there were 16 teams that scored higher than an 89.69 average and finished 10th or better in recruiting. That gives the Vols a 16% chance of making the cut if they continue to stay the course.
Only two teams have cracked the top-10 while averaging less than 89.69 since 2016. The Auburn Tigers finished with the No. 9 class in 2017 and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished right behind them with the No. 10 class that same year.
In fact, top-10 classes have averaged a final mark of 91.15 by the time everything is said and done.
It gets harder when it comes to sticking around in the top-5 or better. The 2011 USC Trojans (3rd), the 2011 Auburn Tigers (5th), and the 2015 Tennessee Volunteers (4th) are the only teams to crack the top-5 with a lower average since 2011.
When you look at all of the top-3 recruiting classes over the last five years (including 2020), those teams have averaged a 92.99 overall mark. None of them finished with less than a 91.19 average. Tennessee’s last four recruits would all have to be 5-star players in order to ensure a top-3 class.
But the good news is that there is still work to be done. The Vols have around four scholarships to give out and based off what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, there is little reason to think they can’t land more elite recruits.
On the flip side, there is still plenty of ground to make up for the other teams, as well. The Vols are the only team in the country with 21 commits. The Buckeyes are up next with just 17 commits and that class currently holds a 95.37 average. Every other team in the top-25 averages around 11 commits in 2021, which obviously leaves plenty of room for said teams to improve their ranking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s impossible for every team to land 4- and 5-star players and pass Tennessee. The math just doesn’t work. But it will be important to keep an eye on everything as time passes.
And trust me, I realize that recruiting averages aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to the final rankings. There are all kinds of factors when it comes to the composition of the rankings. We’ve seen teams with a lower average ranked higher than teams that have a higher average, so this isn’t always as cut and dry as it may appear.
There’s certainly a chance that the Vols will finish with a top-10 class in 2021 when it’s all said and done, but when comparing the current state of the class to trends of the past, there is also a chance for them to fall out of the top-10.
Just like most things with this program, we’ll just have to wait and see.