Butch Jones said on Monday that Tennessee was on the verge of a “top-notch” recruiting class.
His words felt a bit more prophetic on Tuesday afternoon when five-star offensive lineman Trey Smith, who is rated as the No. 1 player in the nation by ESPN.com, committed to the Vols at a ceremony at his high school in Jackson, Tenn., which was carried live on ESPNU.
ESPN #1 overall recruit Trey Smith just committed to Tennessee.
Here's some of his work. pic.twitter.com/qAv417F8wV
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) December 6, 2016
Smith chose the Vols over a sizable offer list with dozens of top-tier schools on it. Most recruiting experts thought it came down to Tennessee, Ohio State and Alabama, however, in the end. The in-state Vols were able to win out over the two playoff-bound schools in the end.
The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Under Armour All-American has been long considered the top target for Tennessee in the 2017 class. The Vols pulled out all the stops to land his services. Tennessee held a satellite lineman camp at his University School of Jackson campus in the summer, hired his sister as an executive assistant in the football program and continually let him know that he was at the top of their board.
Rebuilding the offensive line has been an ongoing project for Butch Jones and the Vols since the 2014 season. After taking some steps in 2015, the Vols went the wrong direction in several statistical categories in 2016 despite having a more experienced bunch and a senior quarterback behind it.
Jones will evaluate those issues this postseason and offseason, but regardless, Smith will be a key piece for the Vols going forward as he joins a young nucleus of players such Chance Hall, Jack Jones, Venzell Boulware, Marcus Tatum, Drew Richmond and others who have shown potential, but haven’t fully realized their talents yet.
Asking Smith to play as a freshman in 2017 might be ambitious, but he is scheduled to enroll early at Tennessee and should go through winter workouts and spring practice, giving him at least an opportunity to be in the mix.
Smith is the 24th commitment for the Vols in the 2017 class and the third offensive lineman, joining Riley Locklear (Huntington, W.V.) and K’Rojhn Calbert (McMinnville, Tenn.) in the class as of Tuesday.