After hauling in one of the nation's most well-rounded and star-studded recruiting classes in 2014, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is looking to follow up on his success in 2015.
When Dave Hart introduced Jones as Tennessee's newest head coach on Dec. 7, 2012, "elite recruiter" was one of the last phrases anyone who followed college football would use to describe him.
But when Jones, who declared to Rivals.com's Dallas Jackson that Tennessee would recruit with "velocity and intensity," landed commitments from 4-star safety Todd Kelly Jr. and 5-star tailback Jalen Hurd within days of each other in March 2013, the college football world began to take notice.
Those commitments started a domino effect that led to a whirlwind summer and fall of Tennessee commitment after commitment. Now that the ink is dry on the letters of intent and his prized class is officially enrolled and on campus, Jones has his eyes set on a few blue-chip prospects who could catapult the Vols' 2015 class into the national top 10.
Regardless of Jones' recruiting prowess, it's tough to argue that he hasn't benefited from an unusual number of highly talented legacy recruits who just happen to be reaching college age during his first couple of years on the job at Tennessee.
However, luck and family ties aren't the only things that are getting those young players—including defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie—to sign their names on the dotted line.
Whether he's playing Where's Waldo with Tennessee bucket hats on Twitter or enlisting the help of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, Jones has pulled out all the stops to make sure McKenzie knows he's one of the team's top targets, according to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin.
Of all of Jones's recruiting promises, living up to his word of owning the state of Tennessee, as reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, may be the most important.
Memphis has always been a hotbed of talent, but it has also been a highly contested region for the Vols, as it's geographically much closer to rival schools like Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn.
Richmond is the top player in Tennessee and the 40th-best player in the country, according to Rivals.com. Although Jones upgraded the talent and depth on the offensive line with the 2014 class, it's still a huge position of need for the Vols.
Landing the services of Richmond would not only help Jones continue to lock down the state and increase the overall class ranking, but it would also provide a big boost for the offensive line in the years to come.
After landing commitments from in-state quarterback Jauan Jennings and Texas quarterback Quinten Dormady, it appeared that Tennessee had moved on from 5-star and top-ranked athlete/dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson.
But Gibson, who was in Knoxville at the time of Dormady's commitment, didn't drop the Vols from his top schools. In fact, his extended visit on Rocky Top only reinforced his preference for Tennessee over other programs like Auburn and LSU, according to AL.com's Wesley Sinor.
Some analysts have speculated that Gibson may be better suited as a wide receiver. But no matter what position he plays, if Gibson commits to the Vols, his 5-star status will give Tennessee a sizable bump in the recruiting rankings.
Tennessee's Final 2015 Recruiting Ranking: 10th in the Nation
Jones already has the foundation of a great 2015 class for Tennessee, but it's the recruits he leads for that will make this class just as successful as the 2014 edition.
McKenzie and Richmond are both heavy favorites to commit to the Orange and White, and their star power will give the Vols a big boost in the overall rankings. Gibson is less of a sure thing, but it won't be a surprise if he gives Jones his commitment any time between now and national signing day.
Combine those highly ranked players with current commitments like offensive lineman Jack Jones, wide receiver Preston Williams and defensive end Andrew Butcher, and it looks like Jones will have no problem cracking the top 10 on national signing day and establishing his reputation as an elite recruiter at Tennessee.
All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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