Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
News flash: It ain't about the X's and O's but the Jimmys and the Joes. That old adage is even more appropriate within the SEC where most schools sign tons of terrific prospects. But Tennessee is a great recruiter, right?
According to Rivals, the Volunteers have had the following recruiting class rankings since 2002: second, 18th, 13th, fourth, 23rd, third, 35th, 10th, ninth, 13th, 17th and currently 21st for the 2013 class. That's an average finish of 14th.
If you remove 2002, 2005 and 2007, whose top-four finishes look more like the exception than the rule, that average drops to 18th. Have fans been hoodwinked? Is Tennessee actually a perennially elite recruiter?
Obviously finishing atop Rivals' recruiting rankings doesn't guarantee success, but what it does do is communicate the vitality of the program. No, Texas hasn't won a National Championship since 2005, but their appearance at the top of the recruiting rankings each year shows that the program is still viewed strongly by high school prospects and coaches.
(And yes, it helps when you have a massive amount of talent in your backyard. But guess what? Knoxville isn't being relocated to California, Texas or Florida anytime soon.)
Thus, recruiting is both a current and a leading indicator of success. To sign a slew of great players shows that your program is on the right track (current) and will likely experience future success when these players have some experience (leading).
The Vols need to make 2002, 2005 and 2007 the standard, not the outlier. There's a reason South Carolina has taken Tennessee's spot on the SEC East Triumvirate—players.