The Tennessee Volunteers’ top prospect, Jalen Hurd, shined on the national stage as his Beech Buccaneers defeated Station Camp 42-39 in a Sunday afternoon showcase on ESPN2. Hurd led the Bucs with 177 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
The top prospect in the Volunteer State impressed Tennessee fans with a strong opening effort to his senior season. However, the nationally televised game also showcased the growing amount of talent within the state represented on both teams.
Station Camp’s Josh Malone currently ranks as the No. 2 prospect in Tennessee and the No. 30 overall high school prospect. The blue chip wideout helped the Bison threaten the defending state champions with more than 170 total yards and two touchdowns.
Malone has yet to announce his future collegiate aspirations and has offers from many programs, including Tennessee and Georgia. A declaration from the Gallatin native would further boost the state's most historic football program in their 2014 rebuilding effort.
The Volunteers have benefited from a strong in-state talent pool, currently holding the No. 2 ranking on Rivals.com. Tennessee currently has commitments from four of the top 10 players in the state, and the Vols are still in the running for the undeclared prospects.
The surge in talent has comes at a perfect time for a Tennessee program looking to rebuild. While the state has been lacking in depth of talent in the recent past, the Vols have tried to compete for prospects with SEC powerhouses.
While Tennessee has seen some success recruiting major prospects from other states, the increased level of talent within their own boundaries has given it a huge boost. In recent years, the state has produced less depth of talent, while the struggling program failed to sign top prospects.
In 2011, the state of Tennessee produced just two 4-star prospects. Since 2010, the state has produced just two Rivals 100 prospects, prior to the 2014 recruiting class.
The Vols also struggled to lock down their state's top talent prior to the Jones era. In 2013, Tennessee failed to sign a top-5 prospect within its own state lines.
For a team struggling to compete in the SEC while experiencing uncertainty with a new coaching staff, the Vols’ 2014 recruiting class is extremely impressive.
The war in the SEC must be won on the recruiting trail, and Butch Jones has made many victories in his battles thus far. If the level of high school talent within the state of Tennessee continues to improve, the Vols should continue their success on the recruiting trail and eventually improve their on-field success.