Legacy commitment is going to be a phrase that you hear ad nauseum over the next few days if you're a Tennessee Volunteers football fan, but it's a phrase that needs to be embraced.
New head coach Butch Jones is tasked with turning around a Tennessee program in the toughest conference in college football, the SEC, and that's all going to start and end with recruiting.
Much of that turnaround, or lack thereof, will hinge on whether or not Jones can rebuild a winning culture around the program, and that's what makes the legacy commitment so important. Affinity to a certain program, brand or even colors plays more of a role in recruiting than you'd think, and one of the traits of a great recruiting program is keeping said program in the "bloodline" of recruits.
There are few people more dedicated to a school that an alumnus. That statement is multiplied by tenfold if said alumnus was a football player. In many cases, that dedication and passion for the school is often times passed on to the family.
Neiko Creamer is a 3-star wide receiver from Bear, Delaware and he just recently committed to Tennessee. He has good size at 6'4'', 220 pounds and his size gives him plenty of potential. He's also the son of former Tennessee defensive back Andre Creamer. Dave Hooker of ESPN.com reports on his commitment:
The Volunteers added their fourth commitment when receiver Neiko Creamer from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian confirmed he had committed on Monday afternoon. Creamer's father, Andre, was a defensive back for Tennessee in the 1980s.
"It's ironic and is a blessing," Neiko said of committed to his father's alma mater. "To go to the same college and compete there is a real blessing."
Creamer went on to talk about the task laid out before him and his potential future teammates, per Hooker:
"I think we're trying to build Tennessee back to the way it was," he said. "I know we're going to work hard to get Tennessee back to the top tier of the SEC."
Herein lies the importance of a the legacy commitment. Creamer has a connection to the school that dates back long before he was born, and restoring Tennessee to prominence in the SEC is obviously a personal matter.
Tennessee football is in his blood, and it seems like a matter of pride to him.
That's the type of football player that drives a program forward when you're trying to rebuild, and even though he's only a 3-star recruit, Creamer is the perfect cornerstone for this 2014 class, along with another legacy commitment in 4-star safety Todd Kelly Jr.
Before you can establish a culture of winning you have to establish a culture of caring, and I'm not just talking about normal competitive nature. If Jones wants to turn this thing around he needs to recruit players that are "Tennessee Guys" (feel free to change this term, Coach Jones). He needs to find players that are fully invested in the program and take pride in whether or not Tennessee football is relevant.
Will Tennessee football experience a revival under Jones?
I've brought it up before, but much like how Brady Hoke at Michigan has established that he recruits "Michigan Men," Jones needs to foster that same environment. "Tennessee Guys" bleed orange and they're willing to do whatever it takes to help the program—whether it be in the weight room, film room, classroom or on the field.
That attitude residing in a few key players will then become contagious, to the point where you have a whole locker room working toward one goal. That spreads across campus and eventually to the fan base, and that's where the beginnings of an Alabama dynasty or Michigan revival take place.
The same can happen at Tennessee, and it's going to start by bringing in these legacy recruits.
After that, Jones should focus on locking down the main recruits that grew up as Tennessee fans, as to capture and harness that affinity, and that's how the culture of Tennessee football will grow.
Once you find a group of players who deeply care, building a winning culture becomes much easier.