Recruiting

Could Butch Jones’ recruiting ability ‘save’ him if season doesn’t go that well?

Butch Jones
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s 2018 recruiting class looks to be a high-level one. Could that grant Butch Jones a reprieve if the 2017 season doesn’t go as many hope? Quite possibly.

Using 247Sports.com’s composite rankings, which takes into account assessments from all of the recruiting services, the Vols currently have the No. 6 class in the country. That ranking has the Vols in the lead among SEC schools. Florida and LSU are just behind at seventh and eighth in the nation, respectively. Considering Florida’s in-state recruiting buzz and the excitement around LSU coach Ed Orgeron, that’s impressive.

The Vols have 20 known commitments. Only three schools – Penn State, Minnesota and USF – have more among the schools in the top 50.

Now, recruiting is a fluid – very fluid – situation. Over coach Butch Jones’ tenure, there have been plenty of commitments who have parted ways with the Vols, and vice versa. The Vols had 13 decommitments in the 2017 class; there have been five for the 2018 class. Those numbers would have been an inordinate amount a decade ago. Now, it’s just how the recruiting game is played.

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Tennessee’s class also has some potential superstars, based on recruiting rankings. The Vols have one five-star commitment and eight four-star commitments.

Every fan, analyst and average Joe has an opinion on just what it will take for Jones to save his job. Most seem to think eight or nine regular-season wins will do the job. As stated previously, I fall into the nine-win camp. But I’m not UT’s athletic director … just yet.

Despite what I think, there’s a strong case to be made that eight wins would be enough if Jones can assemble a stellar 2018 recruiting class. The need for stability at Tennessee certainly is on Jones’ side.

RELATED: The 2017 Tennessee Volunteers aren’t as good as fans think – and here’s why

Jones’ job security, his win/loss total this season and his success in recruiting all go hand-in-hand. If Jones and the Vols struggle this season, that likely would be reflected in recruiting with a handful of defections. That, in turn, would erode the confidence in Jones of some fans who point to recruiting.

But if the Vols are flirting with a top-five signing class nationally and a top-three class in the SEC and win “just” eight regular-season games, the recruitniks might be right. Eight regular-season wins just might be enough.

(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)

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