Recruiting during a transition year in the coaching staff is never an easy thing to do. While it's a lot to ask any new staff to land in the top 10 in the national team rankings in its first recruiting season, there needs to be a few stars to build around.
Tennessee got one of those stars on Wednesday evening, when Marquez North from Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, N.C. committed to the Vols over the North Carolina Tar Heels.
North announced his intention on Twitter.
I will be going to Tennesse in the fall— Quez (@Numero8_thebest) January 31, 2013
The 6'4", 212-pound wide receiver is rated as a 4-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite index. With 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, he has the size and speed to be a big-time weapon in the SEC.
North's commitment is huge for first-year head coach Butch Jones, who desperately needs to find playmakers in his retooled offense.
Star wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson left early for the NFL, and the Vols' next two leading receivers—tight end Michal Rivera and wide receiver Zach Rogers—exhausted their eligibility after the 2012 season.
The Vols lost a 69 percent of their receiving production (198 of 285 receptions) from a year ago. In other words, playing time is not only available—it's screaming "come take me" to wide receiver prospects in the class of 2013.
That's not to say that Tennessee doesn't have some talented players already on campus. Alton "Pig" Howard is similar to former South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders, and can absolutely step in and be that big-time weapon underneath for the Vols.
Junior Vincent Dallas caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown a year ago after bouncing around between defensive back and wide receiver. He should emerge as a downfield threat in 2013.
But North has a chance to step in and make an immediate impact as a true freshman on Rocky Top. He has the size to be a big-time weapon in the red zone, the speed to separate from opposing defensive backs and a clean slate with the new coaching staff in place.
Jones likes to spread the ball around and get the ball in the hands of his playmakers in space, and North is precisely. Throw North into the mix with a veteran offensive line and an underrated running back corps, he will have plenty of room to roam in 2013.
Is North the top wide receiver in the class of 2013? Probably not.
But his physical skills coupled with the opportunity that will present itself when he arrives in Knoxville will make him a star in the SEC sooner rather than later.