Butch Jones is fast-tracking his Tennessee football program back into SEC contention by convincing elite high school athletes to come to Knoxville. Now, the Vols' head coach is evaluating kids who haven't even made it to high school yet.
UT offered eighth-grade athlete Owen Pappoe of Loganville, Georgia, on Tuesday after the 6'1", 194-pound player unofficially visited Knoxville last weekend.
Pappoe is expected to be one of the top players in the 2019 class. Though there's no telling how much he'll grow, what position he'll play or what may happen in the four years between now and the time he finishes high school, Pappoe already looks the part.
He's nicknamed "The Freak," and he'll play for a Grayson High School program that is no stranger to marquee recruits. One of the top schools in all of Georgia is the home of Robert Nkemdiche, the former top-rated player in the 2013 recruiting class.
Whether Pappoe's recruitment surges as much as Nkemdiche's remains to be seen. He is just 14 years old, after all.
But the Vols aren't even his first offer. According to 247Sports, Boston College offered on April 21. He already has unofficially visited Ohio State, Auburn, Louisville and others.
According to Rivals' Woody Wommack, "Pappoe has said that the Vols are his dream school and that he intended to commit if Tennessee offered, and now that they have, we will have to watch and see how things go."
Recruiting has become so crazy that offering kids this early isn't unique. It was huge news back when then-USC coach Lane Kiffin offered eighth-grade quarterback David Sills, who just signed with West Virginia this year.
Dylan Moses is another recent super-athlete who drew attention from elite programs very early in his recruiting process.
Pappoe is the newest addition to that group. He participated in the junior day at UT, so the Vols have seen him a couple of different times now.
According to Youth1.com's Alan Popadines, Pappoe runs a hand-timed 4.61 40-yard dash, and after performing in Knoxville at junior day, the reaction was much the same as at other places.
"Every time I said I was in the eighth grade, people's jaws dropped," Pappoe said.
Popadines also noted that UT linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen took Pappoe to a linebackers meeting, while his site created a #Pappoetothehill hashtag.
It's a lot for a kid who hasn't even gone to high school yet, but that's the nature of recruiting. Before long, Pappoe will likely have suitors from all over the nation.
The Vols just got in on the ground floor.
All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.