The state of Tennessee once severely lacked in high school football talent, but that is slowly starting to change. There are numerous in-state players that warrant significant recruiting from the Volunteers every year, and I have six for the 2013 class already.
What's more, being able to keep a quality Tennessean in-state signals that you, the Tennessee Vols, are still a destination school for in-staters.
High schoolers are attracted to the unearned bravado of Vanderbilt's James Franklin, and Alabama and Ole Miss routinely pickpocket the Vols' West Tennessee prospects, so it's no easy task to get every in-state player to Knoxville.
But here are six that I think the Big Orange would be crazy to not make a hard run at.
Rivals Ranking: No. 230
A Tennessee Volunteer through-and-through, Cleveland native Austin Sanders committed to the Vols in August of last year, which means on National Signing Day 2013, he'll have been committed for a year and a half.
While Tennessee is set at offensive line for the near-future, there were no signees at that position in 2012, so Sanders' offensive tackle position is certainly a need. At 6'5", 300 pounds, he is a big kid with plenty of time to grow.
Rivals Ranking: No. 209
The early word on running back Jordan Wilkins has not been promising for the Vols. Like nearly every West Tennessee prospect, his college interests are mainly Alabama and Mississippi schools.
Still, with the weakness of the running back position at Tennessee, this 6'1", 205 pound back from St. Benedict at Auburndale High School in Cordova is someone the Vols need to keep a close eye on.
Rivals Ranking: No. 201
It has been far too long since blinding speed donned Tennessee orange, but if the Volunteers were to secure Mark Dodson, Jr. in 2013, that wait would be over.
The all-purpose back from Memphis clocked a 4.44 second 40-yard dash and still has a year to train, grow and improve. His 5'10", 180 pound build reminds me of LaMarcus Coker whose stay with the Vols was cut short due issues stemming from drugs.
Like Jordan Wilkins, Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas are his first choices, unfortunately.
Rivals Rankings: No. 176
Finally! A West Tennessee native that is interested in Tennessee! Not only is Jason Car— defensive end from Memphis' White Station—interested in the Vols, he is committed to sign.
After receiving offers from LSU and Nebraska (and likely to receive several more), it is important that the Tennessee coaching staff remain in close contact with Carr. He is 6'6", 260 pounds and displays tremendous athleticism across many sports, including basketball.
(And you gotta love those glasses!)
Rivals Ranking: No. 164
Tennessee has lost its stranglehold on Middle Tennessee high schoolers in part to the recent "success" of Vanderbilt as well as its own neglect in the area. It's time for that to change, and Nashville athlete Cornelius Elder would be a good start.
Elder has terrific speed but is small-ish at 5'11", 170 pounds. I compare his potential contribution to Tennessee with Ohio State's Ted Ginn, Jr: A potentially electric punt and kick returner but unlikely to carry the load at running back or even wide receiver.
You hate to lose these guys to Vandy, though, and the fact that he attends the same high school as current 'Vol Antonio Richardson (and talks with him semi-regularly) gives Tennessee a slight advantage.
Rivals Ranking: No. 135
The best prospect from Tennessee, Jalen Ramsey, has the potential to be an electric defensive back at the next level.
He is currently classified as an athlete because he does so much for his Brentwood Academy football team, but he has excelled at camps in the secondary.
Ramsey is drawing interest from dozens of teams in the south, and that number will increase when his senior year gets underway in the fall. At 6'0", 183 pounds, Ramsey's size and speed are something that the Vols absolutely must keep in-state.