With national signing day just around the corner, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones' tenure in Knoxville may ride on how he manages to salvage the 2013 recruiting class. Although Jones has yet to even coach a down for the Vols, the days leading up to Feb. 6 may be the most important to his success in Knoxville.
According to Rivals.com, the Volunteers' 2013 recruiting class ranks 32nd overall and 11th in the SEC. This is a major problem for a Tennessee team looking to replace their entire passing attack, as well as fixing a defense that ranked 107th overall last season.
Many things can happen between now and the first Wednesday of February, but the fact remains, Jones and his staff must be able to make an impact before the deadline and secure players who are sending in their letters of intent to their choice programs. Jones' recruiting performance will play a major role in his approval rating back home.
A respectable recruiting class will win over many doubters in the Tennessee fanbase. Let's be honest, the Vols' fanbase has extremely high expectations every season, despite being a program in "rebuilding mode" for the past few years.
Many of the coaching candidates on the Tennessee fans' wish list were far fetched, but the common trait that most of them shared was that they weren't Butch Jones. Despite an impressive press conference and a growing optimism amongst fans, Jones still has his doubters amongst the Big Orange faithful. A strong finish in an inherently weak recruiting class may swing naysayers to his side, at least for the time being.
The long-term affects of this recruiting class will also play a major role in Jones' success, especially if the Vols don't see an immediate turn around during the next two seasons. In year three of the Jones' tenure, next season's freshman class will be veteran players and presumably starters.
Therefore, Jones will ultimately be judged by the performance of his first recruiting class as Tennessee's head coach. To succeed, Jones must be able to convince the remaining top prospects still on the fence to buy into his plan of rebuilding Tennessee into an elite SEC football program.