Butch Jones and his coaching staff received a huge boost on Tuesday afternoon when offensive tackle Trey Smith committed to the Vols’ 2017 recruiting class. Smith is easily the highest-ranking commit in Tennessee’s 2017 class, and he pushed the Vols into the top 10 of every major recruiting service with his commitment.
Smith is not only a highly-rated recruit, but he also plays at a huge position of need for the Vols. And he’s a coveted in-state recruit in a year where the state of Tennessee has produced a large amount of talented prospects.
Does all this make Trey Smith the most important commit of Butch Jones’ tenure at Tennessee?
An argument can be made that, at the time, the commitment of Jalen Hurd was the most important commitment Butch Jones ever got at Tennessee. Hurd committed to the Vols during a time when highly-rated players weren’t coming to Tennessee, and his pledge helped form what would become a huge 2014 recruiting class. And Hurd was a highly-coveted in-state running back in an era where the Vols had struggled to keep talented players inside the state.
Of course, Hurd’s ultimate demise at Tennessee lessens the significance of Hurd’s commitment overall. His departure and the way it happened minimizes the impact of that commitment now.
Before Trey Smith, Kahlil McKenzie was the highest-rated recruit that Jones had picked up a commitment from. McKenzie was the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2015 class according to 247Sports (Smith is the 4th overall prospect in this class), and he headlined another star-studded class for Jones and the Vols.
But McKenzie’s commitment wasn’t much of a surprise. McKenzie had a father and uncle play at Tennessee, and he seemed destined to follow in their footsteps for years. His commitment to the Vols was hardly up for speculation at the time, and it didn’t cause quite the splash Smith did.
Then there’s Jonathan Kongbo in the 2016 class. The four-star junior college defensive end was committed to the Vols, decommitted, then came back and signed with Tennessee on National Signing Day. While his production in the 2016 season wasn’t as great as expected, the sheer amount of work Jones and his staff had to put in to nab Kongbo’s signature certainly makes him noteworthy.
Trey Smith is still a bigger addition than any of these other players, though. Given the timing of his commitment, his importance to this class, and the state of the Vols program right now, Smith’s commitment was vitally important to both Jones and the Vols.
There is one commitment that rivals Smith’s, however. In fact, it may supplant him as the most important commitment of the Butch Jones era.
When Jones took over as Tennessee’s head coach in December of 2012, he had just a couple months to hold on to the Vols’ current commitments and to go out and add some of his own. Jones was able to hold on to players like Cam Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin while going out and adding a few other players.
One of those recruits was a four-star quarterback who was committed to Arizona State at the time. Jones was able to convince him to flip his commitment extremely late in the recruiting process, and that quarterback signed with the Vols on National Signing Day.
That quarterback was, of course, none other than Joshua Dobbs.
Dobbs will be making his last start as a Vol later this month, and he’s arguably been the most important Tennessee football player of the last half decade-plus. Dobbs has racked up nearly 9,000 career yards, has accounted for 83 total touchdowns, and is in the top 10 and top five of several different offensive categories in Vol history.
Trey Smith’s commitment is massive for Butch Jones and Tennessee right now. The Vols desperately needed any sort of positive news they could get, and his commitment gives them that and more. Jones and his staff have missed on several talented in-state recruits in this recruiting cycle, and missing on Smith would’ve been a huge blow to the class and perception around the program. Not only that, but Smith is one of the highest-rated offensive tackles in the 2017 class, a position of major need for the Vols in the coming future. Smith checks off a number of boxes for the Vols.
But until he proves himself on the field, he can’t be considered the biggest commitment of the Butch Jones era. Right now, that honor still belongs to Josh Dobbs.