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What To Like, Not To Like About Tennessee Football’s 2024 Signing Class

Mike Matthews
Tennessee commit Mike Matthews. Photo via @Mike.Matthewss on Instagram.

Tennessee football signed 21 scholarship prep recruits and three scholarship transfers on Wednesday morning as Josh Heupel and his staff put the final touches on their 2024 recruiting class.

There’s more to like than not about Heupel’s third full recruiting class in Knoxville but there are areas where Tennessee fell short on the recruiting trail.

Taking a look at the good and the bad of Tennessee’s 2024 signing class.

More From RTI: Everything Josh Heupel Said During Early Signing Period Press Conference

What To Like

Early Transfer Class

Tennessee will likely add a number of more transfers by the time fall practice starts in early August but the Vols signed their first three commits on Wednesday.

Notre Dame transfer Holden Staes is the top-ranked tight end in the portal and the Vols badly needed to land an instant impact tight end.

Oregon State corner Jermod McCoy brings starting experience and three-years of eligibility to Knoxville. The four-star transfer chose Tennessee over a number of high level suitors. MTSU safety Jakobe Thomas doesn’t have the pedigree of the other two but safety is a major position of need.

It’s still early in the transfer portal cycle and Tennessee will sign more transfers. But combined with the veteran players the Vols have retained, the trio is a nice start.

Offensive Line Class

Tennessee returning an abundance of veteran offensive linemen was important because the Vols haven’t recruited well there in recent years.

But offensive line coach Glen Elarbee changed that in this class, signing five offensive linemen and three four-star offensive linemen. Offensive tackle Bennett Warren is the bell cow, signing with the Vols over local Texas A&M as well as Michigan and Oklahoma but there’s plenty more to like about the class.

The one complaint is that it could use one more elite offensive tackle. There’s a handful of signees who could end up at offensive tackle but Jesse Perry— the lowest rated prospect of the bunch— is the only sure thing.

Still, this is the best offensive line class Tennessee’s signed and it comes in a year the Vols badly needed to sign a strong offensive line class.

Quarterback Signee

After Tennessee signed the Nico Iamaleava, the nation’s top quarterback, it was going to be challenging for them to sign an elite quarterback in this class.

And while Jake Merklinger may not be elite, he is pretty darn good. The top 200 recruit and consensus four-star committed to the Vols early in the recruiting cycle and never wavered.

Merklinger may not have the ceiling that Iamaleava does but he seems to have a high floor which is very valuable, especially in the short term.

Blue Chip Ratio

The blue-chip ratio is the percentage of players on your roster that ranked as four or five-star recruits in high school. No team has ever won the national championship in the modern recruiting era without a blue-chip ratio over 50%.

Through three years, Heupel still hasn’t had a team that’s cleared that mark. This recruiting class helps change that. Tennessee signed two five-stars, 11 four-stars and eight three-stars. That’s good for a 62% blue-chip ratio.

What Not To Like

How Tennessee Closed In Final Months

When you’re recruiting at a high-level in the SEC, you’re not going to land every recruit you’re in the top group for. If you close really strong you’ll land about 50% of them.

But Tennessee closed out its 2024 prep cycle on an all time cold streak. From the start of August, the Vols missed out on a number of top prospects including four-star running back Daniel Hill (Alabama), four-star receiver Amari Jefferson (Alabama), four-star corner Cai Bates (Florida State), four-star linebacker Chris Cole (Georgia), four-star defensive lineman Kam Franklin (Ole Miss), five-star defensive lineman Williams Nwaneri (Missouri), five-star receiver Ryan Wingo (Texas), four-star defensive lineman Elias Williams (Missouri), four-star EDGE rusher Danny Okoye (Oklahoma), five-star offensive tackle Jordan Seaton (Colorado though we’ll see who he signs with), four-star athlete Kam Mikell (Colorado), three-star tight end Roger Saleapaga (Oregon), three-star cornerback Jaren Sensabaugh (Missouri) and three-star tight end Willie Rodriguez (Kentucky).

In that time Tennessee beat out SEC schools for one commit: five-star EDGE rusher Jordan Ross.


Prep Tight End Recruiting

Tennessee had one prep tight end committed when Alec Abeln replaced Alex Golesh as tight ends coach— Jonathan Echols.

Over the course of the 2024 recruiting cycle Tennessee was in the top group for a number of talented tight ends but Jaden Reddell (Georgia), Amir Jackson (Florida), Max LeBlanc (Ohio State) and Saleapaga (Oregon) all landed elsewhere.

Things got even worse when Echols flipped his commitment to South Florida to play for Golesh earlier this month.

Tennessee mitigated some of the concerns by landing Staes in the portal and low three-star Cole Harrison. Still, it wasn’t a great prep tight end recruiting cycle for the Vols.

Defensive Line Recruiting

Nor was it a great defensive line recruiting cycle for Tennessee. We touched on a number of defensive linemen the Vols missed on two sections ago and those were all tough blows.

Tennessee signed just four defensive linemen and those players are solid, including the five-star Ross, one four-star and a pair of three-stars. The real issue is the small quantity of recruits.

This concern is less pressing because Tennessee has recruited on the defensive line at a very high-level in recent years, but it still was a weakness of the Vols’ 2024 recruiting class.

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2 Responses

  1. How many of the top ten players in our state did we land.🫣what does that say about our recruiting staff?

  2. Thank you, Ryan. I’m always keen to get your take on things. Merry Christmas!

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