National Signing Day 2017: Tennessee Vols’ Low Class Ranking is No Big Deal

Tennessee football secured a Top 20 recruiting class on National Signing Day 2017. Although it’s lower than expected, the Volunteers’ class is fine.

Cue more panic about Butch Jones’s recruiting abilities as Tennessee football’s 2017 never ranked higher than No. 15 on any major service’s final rankings.

Coming off of a 9-4 season that was supposed to be much better and with a second straight class outside the Top 10, everybody is now even more ready to turn on Jones.

But this whole freak out over one class ranking is idiotic. If you look beyond the details, you’ll see this class was actually great.

Let’s start with history.

The Clemson Tigers just won the national title with two of their previous four recruiting class outside of the Top 10. The year before, they made the national title with just one Top 10 class on the roster.

So if you recruit the right way and fill the right voids, the right coaching can then get you the national championship.

This isn’t to say that you don’t need elite classes. But how you mix and match those classes matter.

That brings us to Butch Jones and Tennessee. When he first took over, he immediately secured two elite, Top 5 classes. The bulk of those classes are still going to be on the roster for 2017.

Meanwhile, he scouted skill players that other guys overlooked, making the classes more elite than their rankings even indicated.

Consider what Jauan Jennings has become at wide receiver or the way some of the offensive linemen have developed.

So each class is now about improving the overall star quality of each unit, not just bringing in guys to boost your recruiting ranking.

Jones may run a spread offense, but he realizes you can find skill guys with smart scouting. So what he did this year was a bit more unique: he went for complete depth in the trenches.

After last year’s slew of injuries, Jones realized that bodies were more important than star quality in the trenches.

And with that, despite a class outside of the Top 10, he secured an amazing unit of defensive linemen. He brought in seven overall.

Already, the Vols’ unit next year fully healthy will have proven veterans in Kendal Vickers and Dimarya Mixon. Then they add the raw talent with three five-stars in Kahlil McKenzie, Jonathan Kongbo and Kyle Phillips, and two four-stars in Shy Tuttle and Alexis Johnson, who should finally be ready to go.

That’s seven guys who already have the talent, and on top of that, two of the seven defensive linemen are four-stars. So is there any reason to believe the defensive line will be suffering at all just because this isn’t a Top 10 class?

What about offensive line?

Jones already had a loaded offensive line, and he secured three more pickups this year, including two four-stars and one of the top players in the country in Trey Smith.

So while the last two classes may not have been in the Top 10, you can bet the star average and bodies on this year’s offensive and defensive lines will be in the Top 5 in the nation.

Since they’re set in the trenches, what about elsewhere? Well, Jones’s class took a hit because he didn’t secure an elite quarterback in this class.

So what? He’s got three four-stars competing for the starting job from previous classes and added Will McBride to the mix.

And when it comes to every other skill position, there are at least four four-stars in the mix. The secondary has six when you add this class.

So no, Jones did not secure a Top 10 class for this year.

But he brought in the right players at the right positions to make sure that the average star power of each unit on the Vols’ roster is still among the most elite in the country.

That’s what more important long-term.

And considering all the staff changes that are taking place combined with the disappointing end to last season and the 13 decommitments, a Top 20 class is actually pretty impressive.

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