As it turns out, Tennessee had a couple of surprises in store for us on early signing day. We had a good feeling that four-star running back Justin Williams would pick Tennessee, but the additions of four-star defensive tackle Tyre West and four-star pass rusher James Pearce really gave the class a boost.
Per the 247Sports Composite, Pearce and West gave Tennessee their sixth and seventh four-star commitment, solidifying a first class for Josh Heupel that not many had very high hopes for. Not only did Heupel and his staff arrive in January, but they were forced to play catch-up initially with COVID restrictions still prohibiting prospects from visiting campus. Tennessee made the most of it when restrictions were lifted in June, and then they put an exciting product on the field this fall.
All of that led to a successful signing day, all things considered. The Volunteers now rank 14th in the country in the 2022 class rankings, per 247Sports. Tennessee pulled 20 signatures on Wednesday.
“The class as a whole, we’re really excited about,” Heupel said on Wednesday. “I think we added a lot of athleticism in our skill spots on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Up front, big, long athletes defensively that can rush and affect the passer, both on the inside and on the edges. Up front on the offensive line, added a lot of size, strength and kids that are extremely bright and very focused, so love this group. I think we had 10 captains that came out of these 20 guys. Multiple guys won state championships, guys that know what it takes to win, the dedication, focus and strength and endurance that you’ve got to have to win.”
We’ve said all year that it’s probably not fair to judge this class and draw conclusions about Heupel’s ability to recruit. However, considering the late start and the other variables at play, this is a massive, massive win for Heupel and staff. Work will now largely shift to the 2023 group, where his staff has been working to build relationships now for 11 months. With a regular cycle now coming, I’m interested to see what the next class looks like.