The Tennessee Volunteers are one of the hotter college football programs on the 2014 recruiting trail, and for Butch Jones and his staff, keeping up that momentum for the duration of the cycle is going to be integral.
This is his first full cycle as a recruiter at Tennessee, and he has the opportunity to really set the tone for this new era of Volunteers football—both on and off the field.
In order to truly compete on the recruiting trail with the likes of Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia and the rest of the SEC, it's going to take more than just a standard pitch by Jones and his staff. Tennessee is a very notable program, but there's a lot of work to do to get the Volunteers back on the level where they can compete on a yearly basis in college football's toughest conference.
Just like on the football field, it's going to take that extra bit of effort to stand out and make the proverbial play on the recruiting trail.
When he got home from school Monday, Stanton Truitt (Monroe, Ga./Monroe Area) said, he was told by his father to go check the mailbox.
"When I went to open it, it would not budge," Truitt said. "I pulled it down, and then some of the letters were hanging out, but they were all tied together by a rubber band.
"I was thinking there was no way these came from the same school," he said. "But I kept pulling on them and I thought the mailbox was going to break, but when I got them out I found out that all 102 of them were from Tennessee! It was crazy."
Here's what Truitt had to say about Tennessee's grand gesture, per Adams' report:
"It was shocking and it shows me that they think highly of me and really love me," Truitt said. "It makes me feel important to them and makes me want to work harder and keep doing what I have been doing."
Truitt said that the letters were inspirational, and each letter would say something different like "Stanton, we love you," or "Vol Nation."
"The Tennessee staff had been telling me that everything we do, we are always going to do it plus-two," Truitt said. "Every play you run, you want to get plus-two yards, take an extra two yards with the end zone. Everything you do, do it plus-two. That is why they sent me 102 letters."
Without a doubt in my mind, Butch Jones is the right guy for the job, and it's a story like this that really shows you his dedication. I'll admit, when he first got the job I was a little bit skeptical, but with the way Tennessee has started the '14 cycle and because of stories like this, it's becoming easy to be a fan of Jones the recruiter.
Great coaches are also great motivators and visionaries, and we're getting a glimpse of the attitude that has made Tennessee so successful in early goings of the 2014 cycle. Having a mantra like the "plus two" rule is great for football success, but Jones is already teaching potential players that it's more than just a football rule.
Giving the extra effort is a lifestyle and it's a culture, and that's the subtle lesson Jones and his staff are trying to get across with a recruit like Truitt.
If Tennessee wants to rebuild in the SEC, it's going to take everything the program has—plus more.
Changing the culture of a football program starts with the little things, so Tennessee fans should really be encouraged that Jones appears to understand that (or at least somebody on his staff does).
Great coaches are great motivators, but they are also great thieves of ideas, schemes and game plans, so it's worth noting that Nick Saban did send 2013 4-star running back Alvin Kamara 105 letters last year (per Adams). Kamara ended up singing with the Crimson Tide.
In order to be the best, you have to act like the best, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If Jones is trying to model his recruiting style after a specific coach, I can't think of a better one than Saban in regards to recruiting.
The ultimate point here is that Tennessee is going to have to really stand out in order to outrecruit the marquee programs in the SEC. The Volunteers have started off on a great note (landing 5-star running back Jalen Hurd was huge), but holding onto that momentum is key.
Tennessee's 2014 class will be:
With a recruit like Truitt, it seems as if the 102 letters have really made an impact on him. If those letters are what eventually sways him to the Volunteers' side, I'd say those are 102 envelopes well spent.
He would just be one of many recruits that Jones and Tennessee need to stand out to, so that extra effort on the recruiting trail is going to be vital.
For Tennessee fans, there's plenty to be excited about because the "plus two" rule seems to be more than just a football mantra.
Jones is developing a culture.