Despite restrictions on visits and an ever-shrinking calendar of summer events, head coach Jeremy Pruitt and the Tennessee Volunteers are thriving on the recruiting trail.
Since late April, the Vols have added 11 verbal pledges to the 2021 class. However, the recent commitments aren't simply players looking to save a place; Tennessee has landed six 4-star prospects and a pair of 5-stars during the last 30 days.
And in the process, Tennessee's class has soared from 17th nationally and now only trails Ohio State.
The rapid ascent started when 5-star defensive end Dylan Brooks committed on April 26. Brooks is currently the top-rated player at his position and No. 21 overall prospect in the class. His commitment propelled the Vols from 17th to 13th.
What happened next, though, is remarkable.
The following day, 4-star safety Kamar Wilcoxson joined the class and boosted Tennessee's ranking six spots. The day after that pledge, 4-star wide receiver Julian Nixon revealed his commitment and lifted the Vols to No. 5 nationally.
Although the streak ended at three straight days with a new commit, the Vols returned with a bang on April 30.
Five-star linebacker Terrence Lewis—the ninth-best overall prospect right now—announced he'd picked Tennessee. Along with a pledge from 3-star junior college running back Tiyon Evans, the suddenly star-studded group edged up to No. 3.
While on Fox Sports Knoxville, per Ryan Callahan of 247Sports, Pruitt credited his players for the recent recruiting success.
"I believe that our players have a vision of where they want this program to go, and nobody can sell it better than them," he said. "And they're doing an outstanding job doing that."
The hot stretch continued with 4-star running back Cody Brown, 3-star safety De'Shawn Rucker and 3-star offensive tackle Colby Smith. They helped Tennessee inch up to No. 2 and preceded yet another impressive surge of talent.
After a couple of days with no commit—unacceptable, for sure—the Vols landed 4-star teammates from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore. Defensive tackle KaTron Evans committed on May 9, and linebacker Aaron Willis followed on the 10th.
Also during that two-day period, Tennessee picked up 4-star dual-threat quarterback Kaidon Salter.
Last season, Salter threw for 2,550 yards and 28 touchdowns to six interceptions. The 6'1", 185-pounder from Cedar Hill, Texas, added 616 yards and 10 scores on the ground.
So ended a sensational 15-day stretch for the Vols.
It's true Tennessee's No. 2 ranking is a bit inflated because of volume. Pruitt and Co. have landed 21 verbal pledges, and no other program has more than 17. In terms of average prospect ranking, the Vols are outside of the top 10. Plus, some players may increase their rating, others will fall. It happens every year.
The larger point, though, is Tennessee hasn't allowed unique circumstances to become an easy excuse. Instead, the program is becoming a major factor on the recruiting trail.