Butch Jones' First Recruiting Class at Tennessee Can't Be Judged in February

Richard Allen@@RacingWithRichAnalyst IJanuary 26, 2013

Butch Jones is taking his enthusiasm on the road in hopes of luring good players to Tennessee.
Butch Jones is taking his enthusiasm on the road in hopes of luring good players to Tennessee.Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Recruiting is the life blood of college football.

In the South, recruiting is covered almost as much as the games are covered. Obviously, without good players, it is impossible to compete in the SEC or any other major conference.

However, this writer thinks that too much is made of the rankings given to prospects by the magazines and websites that cover the process.

People put far too much stock in the number of stars a particular recruiting service gives a 17-year-old athlete. As a high school teacher, I can attest to the fact that many of the kids in this age group lack the maturity to provide any guarantee of their performance in football, the classroom or anything else over the next four years.

A so-called 5-star prospect may arrive at his initial school of choice only to find that he does not like the environment on that campus for whatever reason. And as a result, he may prove to be unproductive or even leave in his freshman year.

Conversely, a so-called 2-star player may thrive in his new setting and go on to be an All-Conference selection by the end of his career.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones is in the process of hurriedly piecing together his first class of recruits. After the staff changes made due to the firing of Derek Dooley and the losing records in recent seasons, the task before the new staff is a daunting one for sure.

According to Rivals.com, Tennessee was ranked well behind most other SEC schools at first based on the commitments he had received. But it appears as though Tennessee may be closing the gap as the process draws toward its close.

Prospects such as DB Riyahd Jones, DE Jason Carr and Athlete Malik Foreman have committed since Jones took over and have bolstered the current class.

In the end, there will be those who will proclaim Jones' first class a success or a failure immediately after national signing day has passed. But the simple truth is that judgment cannot be made for at least another two or three years.

For example, the one and only class brought into Knoxville by former coach Lane Kiffin was ranked 10th in the country by Rivals.com. On the surface, the class of incoming freshmen seemed to be poised for great things.

It's not all about ranking stars or even about the number of players being brought in. Rather, it's about whether or not the players pan out. Kiffin's class absolutely did not do that despite its national ranking.

According to Rivals.com, Kiffin recruit Bryce Brown was regarded as the top prospect in the nation, while Janzen Jackson and David Oku were very highly regarded. None of them actually made a lasting contribution.

It's up to Butch Jones and his staff to bring players into Knoxville who will make a contribution, not accumulate stars from Rivals.com or any other service.

If four years from now we look back and see that these current recruits won a significant number of football games and competed for SEC East titles, then we can say it was a good class.

Otherwise, if many of these players have dropped out of school or never made it as contributing players, then we can say this class was a failure.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow along with his Chase for the Sprint Cup series by clicking on a driver of your choice, such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin or Clint Bowyer.