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Tennessee Volunteers Are Red Hot in Recruiting and Spring Practice

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Tennessee Volunteers Are Red Hot in Recruiting and Spring Practice
utsports.com

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is rolling some hot dice at the craps table and making all the people around him big money. The best part about it is it doesn't look like he's stopping anytime soon. The Tennessee Volunteers are red hot on the recruiting trail and spring practice got off to a rip-roaring start on Saturday.

In a matter of 72 hours, the Vols secured commitments from three prospects for the 2014 class. The first was perhaps the biggest.

Todd Kelly, Jr., Knoxville Webb product and the 59th-ranked player in the country made his decision public over the weekend. He could've gone to play absolutely anywhere.

For those wary of commitments so early in the process (like me), another tweet from the Vol legacy might help alleviate some of those fears.

That commitment alone would've made for a great weekend in recruiting, but it didn't stop there. The next day, 3-star offensive lineman Coleman Thomas of Virginia also made his decision known.

While Tennessee's 2013 offensive line is going to be incredible (feel free to quote me), the Volunteers will lose at least three of the starters after the season and maybe four if Antonio Richardson decides to exit early. Jones and his staff have already begun preparing for life after the current line.

Finally, this morning a second Vol legacy committed to Tennessee. Neiko Creamer, a 3-star wide receiver from Maryland, decided to make Knoxville his home for college like his father Andre.

The dice are hot right now, and the slew of commitments over the weekend have the Vols with a very early No. 13 ranking for 2014.

utsports.com

Meanwhile, a little thing called spring practice is underway. While I love the excitement of recruiting, it's the grit and grind of spring practice that makes the difference in the fall. The coaches and players believe it. Another group that apparently does is football alumni.

The sideline on Saturday was littered with former Volunteer standouts from numerous decades past. Leonard Little and Jamal Lewis came back. Johnny Majors, Joey Kent, Terry Fair and Jim Haslam were present. There was no shortage of VIP passes for these former Vols and many others.

Side note: Haslam may be the most well-known booster, but Big Jim was also a starter on the 1951 National Championship team and later a captain for General Neyland.

What this tells me is that there is a deep, fervent desire to get the Vols back to where they belong. There is a passion to right the wrongs and be a competitive program once again. Alumni who sported the Power T want to make sure that the current players have the same experience they did: a winning one.

I'll steal a word from my father: There is a hunger from the alumni and fanbase for Tennessee to be a champion once again. Jones made it clear from day one that alumni were always welcomed to the program, and their involvement is crucial to future success.

On the field, the pace didn't start out slow because it was the first day. Even workout warrior Rajion Neal said he got a little winded during the practice. Good! The team is getting in shape for a big 2013 season.

Jones said it was a typical first day with "eager" players but also "a lot of work to do." The spring has just started, but the coach is already getting critical. Once again, I say good!

Maybe the most impressive thing about the beginning of spring practice has been that Jones requires players who are wearing the number of an alumnus who is at practice to learn about that player, when he played and what he did, so he can have a real conversation with the alumnus.

This stuff matters. Tennessee is a program steeped in tradition, something that the past two coaching staffs mentioned but never fully embraced. Though not a single game has been played, there's no way to not be happy with where Jones is taking the team.

Just keep those dice hot. We're gonna be rich.

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