The broad outcomes in each of Tennessee’s first two years under Josh Heupel have been fascinating to look at in hindsight.
Heupel’s first season in 2021 proved that Tennessee had a new and dominant offensive identity despite finishing at 7-6 in year one.
Heupel’s second season in 2022 proved that Tennessee could compete with top teams in the league after an 11-win season with victories over the likes of Florida, Alabama, and Clemson.
While it was always assumed that those were big factors and likely selling points on the recruiting trail for Heupel and the coaching staff, there’s now proof the Vols’ climb back to double-digit wins helped factor into one high-level recruit’s decision.
Six-foot-four defensive lineman Daevin Hobbs was a five-star player and a Top 30 recruit in the 2023 class according to On3 Sports. On the day after Thanksgiving, just one day before Tennessee’s final regular season game against Vanderbilt, Hobbs committed to Tennessee over Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Hobbs spoke to the Knoxville media for the first time on Wednesday following the Vols’ first practice of fall camp. During the press conference, Hobbs detailed how Tennessee’s 11-win season (9-2 at the time) made a genuine impact on his decision.
“I would say that it was very influential to me,” Hobbs said about Tennessee’s 2022 success impacting his decision. “Just to show that they’re just as good as all of the other teams that were recruiting me.”
Considering Hobbs had taken official visits to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and North Carolina, the North Carolina native’s statement about Tennessee being just as good carries weight. If Hobbs didn’t believe Tennessee was capable of competing, it sounds like either Georgia or Alabama could have been in the driver’s seat instead.
Tennessee has all the resources to be successful in the recruiting world. But in addition to that, players want to compete with a quality team, too. Tennessee’s ability to have both was a major factor in Hobbs’ arrival to Rocky Top.
“I liked everything about Tennessee and then I saw what they did last year (2022),” Hobbs continued on to say. “It was pretty much a done deal.”
Coming off of their 11-win season, Tennessee currently has the No. 6 2024 recruiting class in the nation according to On3 Sports at the time of this publication. The Vols’ class is headlined by highly-rated talents such as five-star wide receiver Mike Matthews, four-star cornerback Kaleb Beasley, and four-star quarterback Jake Merklinger.
Daevin Hobbs ended as the second highest-ranked recruit in Tennessee’s 2023 class only trailing five-star quarterback and No. 1 overall recruit Nico Iamaleava.