In-state recruiting has become more important for the Vols now than it ever has been thanks to a huge growth of talent in the state of Tennessee, especially in the mid-state area. But for Tennessee to have the type of success they want, they still need to recruit nationally. They can’t form a huge foundation of in-state players like the Georgias and Floridas of the world or teams from Texas or California.
When Tennessee is on the top of their game, they’re recruiting nationally. And one former Vol great thinks new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff are doing just that.
Casey Clausen was the starting quarterback for the Vols from 2000 to 2003 and is still littered all over Tennessee’s record books. He was part of some of the Vols’ best teams after the 1998 National Championship team, so he knows a thing or two about what it takes to have success at Tennessee.
And according to Clausen, Pruitt and his staff are on the right track early on.
“If we had 11 starters on offense and 11 starters on defense, I don’t know if there were two guys or three guys from the same state,” Clausen said in an interview with SEC Country. “We had guys from Hawaii, California, Vegas, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Atlanta, Alabama, South Carolina. That’s what made our teams unique. We had guys from literally all over the country.
“It wasn’t 98 percent from one state, which the majority of the schools in the South are.”
Pruitt’s first recruiting class at Tennessee, which he had to rush to put together, isn’t exactly a reflection of that. Half of the Vols’ 20 signees were from the state of Tennessee. But Pruitt and his staff are offering players all across the country for the Vols’ 2019 class, and they’re going after some of the premier talent in the state as well.
Clausen believes the former is the key to bringing the Vols back to prominence in football.
“I think Tennessee needs to — and they’re doing it as we speak — go across the country and find the best players that A) want to play on that stage in the SEC week in and week out, and B) want to compete and play early,” Clausen stated. “I think there’s great opportunities for a lot of these guys that are looking at Tennessee, because if they go somewhere else, they’ll sit on the bench for two, three years.
“They have a chance to go and make an impact and have an opportunity to play right away. That’s kind of what I think the coaches are selling.”
Clausen had been the head coach at Calabasas High School in California for the last four years before accepting the job as head coach of his alma mater, Bishop Alemany in Los Angeles. His brother Rick, who was also a quarterback for the Vols, serves as his offensive coordinator for Bishop Alemany. Both Clausens have seen the Vols dip to historic lows since their tenures ended at Tennessee.
And Casey says that should never happen at Tennessee.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have a top program,” Clausen said of the Vols. “Obviously, the cupboard’s definitely not full right now. They have to rebuild it back up…We don’t expect miracles right away, because it’s not gonna happen.
“But in good time over the next couple years, build the program back up and get it back where it needs to be. Where it should be.”
As a Vol, Clausen threw for 9,707 yards, 75 touchdowns, and 31 interceptions while completing 61 percent of his 1,207 pass attempts. He also ran for six touchdowns. Clausen is behind only Peyton Manning for many Vol passing records. He’s second all-time in passing yards, touchdowns, completions, attempts, and quarterback wins in program history. He has the most road wins as a Vol quarterback and owned an impressive 14-1 record on the road as a quarterback while wearing the orange and white.