Heupel Talks Tennessee’s Class, Early Signing Day

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    Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel met with the media Wednesday afternoon as the Vols capped off a strong first day of the early signing period.

    The Vols entered the day with 17 commits while adding three more and signing all 20 prospects. Eleven of Tennessee’s signees are four-stars and nine of them are three-stars according to the On3 consensus rankings.

    Josh Heupel and his staff added three of those blue chips recruits Wednesday as Georgia running back Justin Williams, Georgia defensive lineman Tyre West and North Carolina pass rusher James Pearce all signed with Tennessee.

    “Important for us that we won those,” Heupel said of UT’s three signing day pick ups. “It’s a big part of this class and three guys that we feel like can make an impact here early on in their careers as they grow inside of this program. From an elite pass rusher on the edge (Pearce) to an elite pass rusher inside that has an ability to play on the edge (West) and Justin’s ability, frame, physical attribute’s is something we felt like we needed to add inside of the running back room.”

    The addition of Pearce and West gave Tennessee’s class a much needed boost on the defensive side of the ball. However, the strength of Tennessee’s class is still on the offensive side of the ball.

    Eight of the Vols’ 11 four-star signees are offensive players. At receiver, Tennessee added four blue-chip prospects including top 300 receiver Kaleb Webb and speedster Marquaris “Squirrel” White. The Vols earned Webb’s commitment earlier this month over Michigan and held off Georgia and Auburn for White’s services.

    Still, the highlight of Tennessee’s offensive haul was quarterback Tayven Jackson. The state championship winning quarterback in Indiana is one of just three Tennessee commits that’s a four-star on all four major recruiting services.

    “Two time state champion. First of all comes from an elite program,” Heupel said. “He understands the work habits you have to have on a daily basis to go achieve something individually and collectively as a team. I think he’s just scratching the surface of what he’s going to be as a quarterback. Long frame, he’s going to continue to build that out, has the ability to move his feet above in the pocket and out of the pocket to make plays down the field as a passer. He has the ability to use his feet as a weapon as well. I think that’s only going to increase as he gains confidence in his body. Very compact delivery. As he understands some fundamental things I think he’ll be able to spread the ball sideline to sideline and vertically down the field.”

    NIL and the transfer portal have been a popular topic of conversation for a handful of college coaches this week including Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin. However, Heupel downplayed the topics saying recruiting is still more about relationships then anything else.

    “The core of how you recruit is not going to change for us here, under me,” Heupel said. “I believe in relationships. I think that matters in the short term and in the long term. The culture that you build is hugely important to me and you have to add the right pieces. All those things have to be right. I believe kids are looking for that as well. It’s a different era than it was 20 years ago. The transfer portal is here and not going anywhere. Some of that is beneficial to coaches and recruits and some ways there are some things that aren’t as beneficial but it’s here.”

    Tennessee currently holds the nation’s No. 10 recruiting class on Rivals, the No. 11 recruiting class on 247sports, the No. 17 class at On3 and the No. 31 recruiting class at ESPN.

    Watch Heupel discuss all these topics and the rest of his first full class at Tennessee below.

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.