Figuring out the recruiting numbers under Butch Jones has been one of the challenges since he’s arrived in Knoxville. Jones always likes to say that the “numbers work themselves out,” and they always do seem to do just that as Jones has signed classes with various amount of players in his first two years.
Jones went light in his first signing class, officially bringing in just 22 players and saying that he wanted to have some extra scholarship spots that he could back count with the 2014 class. He then was able to bring 32 in as part of the 2014 signing class – one of the biggest classes in recent history for any program in the SEC – that also included 13 mid-year enrollees.
During the TaxSlayer Bowl press conference in Jacksonville, Fla., on Monday, Jones indicated that the plan is to sign another “full” class this year despite last year’s massive haul.
“Where we’re at in the program – we still lack depth,” Jones said. “The only way you correct that issue is through recruiting and developing your players. You know, we signed 32 individuals last year and we had 13 newcomers at mid-year, we’ll have at least 8-10 newcomers at mid-year this year and we’ll sign another full recruiting class, so you just have to continue to recruit and develop.”
Jones didn’t indicate exactly what a full class means, but NCAA rules allow schools to have 25 new players enroll each year. That number can be flexible if the school is able to back count some scholarships to the previous year if there’s room, or if a player receives something like a “grayshirt” which is where a player either delays enrollment until the following January or comes in as a walk-on and don’t go on scholarship until the following semester. The Vols currently have 25 commitments in the 2015 class, but have more than a dozen prospects they’re still heavily recruiting.
One issue that Tennessee will have to deal with this year that it hadn’t the previous two years is the 85-scholarship limit for the entire roster. Teams can only have a maximum of 85 players on scholarship at a given time. The scholarship situation for a few players isn’t completely clear, but as the roster stands now, the Vols have between 60-65 scholarship players scheduled to be back in 2015.
Jones was asked specifically about freshman defensive end Joe Henderson’s status last week, but went on to mention that there are a few players that are weighing their options for if they want to return to the team or not. (Editor’s note: After publication, Jones mentioned on WNML-FM Radio in Knoxville that running back Derrell Scott is expected to transfer).
“It’s all speculation,” Jones said. “With Joe [Henderson], we’re finishing up on some things with the NCAA. We have a couple individuals right now that are trying to sort out what they want to do with their lives and what lies ahead of them. We’ll be supportive of them. If they decide they want to be a part of something special then, hey, let’s go. If they decide, ‘hey, this isn’t for me and I want to take another life path and go home or do this,’ then we’ll support that as well. But we want people that want to be here, that are committed to this football program, to the state of Tennessee, and the University of Tennessee.”
In terms of early enrollees, Jones indicated that there will be 8-10 arriving in Knoxville shortly. We expect current commitments Jauan Jennings, Alvin Kamara, Stephen Griffin, Andrew Butcher, Jack Jones, Shy Tuttle, Chance Hall and Quinten Dormady to be among those early enrollees this year. Dormady, according to 247Sports, will enroll early enough to participate in some of the bowl practices.