The SEC has been known for its wild recruiting wars through the years, but in the winter and spring of 2013, things have taken on a new and dramatic turn that no one was ready for: Coaches in the conference have now decided to eschew typical recruiting tactics and instead, make headlines by simply sending out an obnoxious amount of mail to the top high school players in the country.
It was a trend which was started by our old pal Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss coaching staff, when just days after closing on one of the top class of 2013, the Rebels began making an impression on the biggest names in 2014 as well. At that time, Freeze and his staff sent top rising high school linebacker Clifton Garrett 54 handwritten letters, a tactic designed to not only get the attention of Garrett, but recruits all over the country also.
Not to be outdone, new Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops had some fun with the US Postal Service in the past couple days himself. That’s because earlier this week, Stoops looked Freeze in the eye and laughed at his petty little attempt to create a recruiting frenzy with those ho-hum 54 letters. Stoops literally doubled Freeze’s effort, when he sent 115 letters to top high school quarterback prospect Drew Barker on Monday, something which clearly caught the attention of Barker (who Instagrammed about it) and very likely his local mail man as well.
Now apparently it is Tennessee’s turn to continue the trend, since on Saturday afternoon top 2014 defensive end prospect Andrew Williams of McDonough, Ga. shared a fun fact about Butch Jones and his new staff via his Twitter account: Yeah, they sent 154 recruiting letters... in one day.
The move was apparently an attempt by the Vols staff to distinguish themselves from every other college that is recruiting Williams, a list which includes, well, pretty much everyone in college football actually. The No. 85 ranked overall player in Rivals.com’s Class of 2014 rankings, Williams literally has offers from just about everyone in the sport, including Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and of course, the Vols too.
Now in the micro, let me start by saying that this is very likely our final installment of “Recruiting Mailers Gone Wild,” here at Crystal Ball Run, since at this point, the only news here is that this stuff isn’t really news at all. Whoever started the trend (whether it was Ole Miss or someone else) did it to stand out, only now that everyone is doing it, it seems like no one is really standing out anymore.
Still, whether the tactic works or not, the news is important for one very important reason: It is the latest proof that Jones and his staff are in fact making recruiting headlines across the Southeast.
Understand that it’s hard for any head coach to stand out in the cluttered world of SEC recruiting, but to the credit of Jones and his staff, they’ve done a good job early on of doing exactly that. While the Vols were a little late to the game this past recruiting cycle (unlike the new staffs at Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky, the Vols weren’t able to make a big splash in 2013) there might not be a program anywhere in college football which has gotten off to a faster start in 2014 than the Vols have. Tennessee already has six commitments in the cycle so far, including running back Jalen Hurd, who is considered by most recruiting services to be one of the top 20 players in the country overall.
Of course, despite the fast start, the reality is that there is a lot of time left between now and when the ink goes dry on Signing Day next February.
Still, for someone who was very critical of Jones when he was hired, I need to give credit where it’s due: The man is making a strong impression.
Not only on me. But on recruits, and local mailmen also.
For all his opinion, insight and analysis, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.
@nrhinds Absolutely I do.