Why Tennessee football may struggle to outrecruit Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina for now | Adams
The Tennessee Vols are in foreign territory when it comes to football recruiting. They are struggling to reach the top 30 of the 247Sports Composite based on their commitments for the 2022 recruiting class.
UT's No. 36 ranking says more about the NCAA investigation – and the sanctions that could come with it – than it does new coach Josh Heupel and his staff.
Never mind UT’s record or coaching transitions. The Vols rarely have fallen short of landing a top 25 recruiting class.
But this recruiting cycle could end quite differently. That’s what the threat of NCAA probation can do to a program. The uncertainty of probation often can be as damaging as whatever sanctions the NCAA sends a program's way.
Tennessee’s recruiting challenges are exacerbated by what’s going on with its SEC East competition. I’m not referring to Georgia and Florida, the division’s top two programs. But Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina are recruiting better than usual. That should concern UT.
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You can credit coach Mark Stoops with Kentucky’s early success in the 2022 recruiting cycle. His program is in its ninth year, and the continuity has paid off. The Wildcats aren’t equipped to challenge Florida or Georgia for division supremacy but are much better off than before Stoops arrived – as evidenced by their five consecutive bowl games.
Much of that success can be attributed to player development. In recruiting terms, Kentucky has won more with three-stars than four-stars.
However, the program is becoming more appealing to four-stars. About halfway through this recruiting cycle, four of Kentucky’s 11 commitments are four-stars. And in 2020, seven of its signees were four-stars.
Missouri also is recruiting better than usual. Second-year Tigers coach Eliah Drinkwitz already has six commitments from four-stars for 2022. He signed five four-stars in his first year.
In the previous five years, Missouri never signed more than three four-stars.
It's also noteworthy that Drinkwitz is making recruiting inroads in Texas, where the Tigers prospered when they were in the Big 12. He has commitments from four-star running back Tavorous Jones from El Paso and three-star cornerback Marcus Scott from Conroe.
Recruiting wasn’t South Carolina’s problem under former coach Will Muschamp. Player development was. Muschamp signed five consecutive top-25 recruiting classes but had only one winning record in SEC play to show for it.
He was fired after the 2020 season and replaced with first-time college head coach Shane Beamer. The coaching transition proved disastrous for the Gamecocks’ recruiting. They signed 13 players in the 2021 class, and not one was a four-star.
Beamer’s staff is rebounding nicely, though. The Gamecocks have commitments from 15 players, including two four-stars in the 2022 class.
South Carolina won a recruiting battle with Tennessee that isn't reflected in the 2022 rankings. It signed Kansas transfer cornerback Karon Prunty, a freshman All-American last season.
Prunty was a vital signee for South Carolina, which lost four defensive backs to the NFL or transfer portal after last season.
Drinkwitz has been successful at recruiting transfers to Missouri. Cornerback was a position of concern until Missouri added Tulsa transfers Akayleb Evans and Allie Green.
Missouri's recruiting presents another challenge for the Vols, who are too far behind Florida and Georgia for discussion. But they should expect to outrecruit Missouri - as well as Kentucky and South Carolina.
Once the cloud of an NCAA investigation passes, maybe they will.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.