all VOL, y'all.

The UT Legacy Class of 2014: will they stay or will they go?

UT Legacy Class

Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk. The future Vol backfield. Right?

Fast starts are fantastic. But at some point, you gotta deliver a strong finish for that fast start to mean anything. And the UT Legacy Class of 2014 is no exception.

Orlando Brown is just the latest proof of that fast start. The massive offensive lineman pretty much had his choice of teams, receiving over 35 offers from top-tier programs from across the nation, including offers from 12 of the 14 SEC schools.

But he chose the Vols. And Butch Jones’ 12th commitment has officially put the UT Legacy Class of 2014 among the top three in the nation, and if that doesn’t qualify as a fast start, then I don’t know what does. Which is probably why people are beginning to wonder if, indeed, this fast start will lead to a strong finish.

My take? These are kids. And kids change their minds on an hourly basis. It’s hard to expect anyone so young — anyone who’s being pulled in so many different directions — to have the poise needed to navigate such a life-changing process from a detached and objective bird’s-eye view. Which is why recruits in general have a tough time seeing the forest, and instead tend to bounce about therein, their path easily influenced — altered, even — by one tree after another.

So when an Orlando Brown goes on record as saying that he won’t be taking visits to any other schools, I wouldn’t necessarily bet the farm on it. After all, it’s overwhelmingly likely that most of UT’s 12 commitments will, at some point, at least play footsie with another program, just as it’s overwhelmingly likely that some of these current commits will never wear the orange.

But I believe the vast majority will. Which means I’m confident that UT will bookend its fast start to the Legacy Class of 2014 class with a strong finish.

And here are five reasons why:

A little thing called inertia

You know, inertia. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, but a body in motion tends to stay in motion? It’s the concept behind momentum. It’s also a property of physics, which, it’s worth noting, I pretty much sucked at back in the day, but whatever. 

I did glean enough to know this:

It’s hard to stop a freight train when it’s barreling down the tracks. So all these hi-profile recruits making hi-profile announcements on Twitter that have got the VolNation in such a frenzy? It’s with good reason. Because what’s happening on the recruiting front is a powerful thing, not to mention a coveted type of momentum that the Vols haven’t enjoyed this early in the recruiting process for quite some time.

And momentum, my friends, begets momentum. Which is why it’s so hard to stop.

Bigger than just a commitment

But it’s more than just momentum. It’s the type of commitment these kids are making. It’s not like Butch Jones is clicking along in his fourth of fifth year here in Knoxville. It’s not like he’s established a system that lacks a few pieces here and there that he’s constantly addressing with each and every upcoming class.

It’s a total revamp situation.

And committing to be yet another piece to the puzzle of a well-established system is a lot different than committing to be part of the class that’s responsible for creating that system. For getting it off the ground.

And these kids know that they’re committing be a part of something far bigger than just another recruiting class at the University of Tennessee. They’re signing up to build something brand new. From scratch. Which requires a far greater commitment than, say, committing to being the umpteenth consecutive highly-regarded Alabama cornerback.

And with each successive big-time recruit that takes to Twitter to announce he’s going to be spending his college years on Rocky Top, the “legacy” part of their class’ moniker continues to take on a new meaning.

Because, yeah, a lot of these guys happen to be Vol legacies, but regardless, if they have the type of impact they’re imagining they might? Every single member in the 2014 class will establish another type of legacy entirely.

One that’s got nothing to do with who their daddy is.

Interconnectivity

There’s an interconnectivity to this class that’s unique, and by that, I mean there are several bonds that were either already in place or have formed far more quickly than normal. 

Example: the “legacies” all share a very special connection to UT. And any diehard fan of any team can attest to this: fandom is something you inherit. So it obviously doesn’t hurt that there are so many talented recruits out there who share that orange DNA.

Another example: One of Orlando Brown’s closest friends is fellow UT Legacy Class commit D’Andre Payne. And that type of interconnectivity is a powerful thing, especially when you consider the other ways this class is connecting.

Like the bond that TK Jr. and Jalen Hurd seem to be establishing. In fact, this entire class seems to be connecting a meaningful way that transcends the normal “me-first” mentality that accompanies group of highly sought after teenagers. If you don’t believe me, then just check out the Twitter stream of the UT Legacy Class.

These kids are interwoven to a far greater extent than most classes — whether it’s by happenstance, prior relationships or newly formed bonds accelerated by a common vision.

And that’s nothing but a good thing if you cheer for the Vols.

Strong statements

There have been several statements made by UT Legacy Class commits which could be considered to be “strong” ones (shout out to JayBay and Erik Ainge who correctly point out that I use the word strong every 13 seconds). Orlando made a verbal one when he said he’d not be visiting other schools.

But there are also strong statements of the non-verbal variety, like this one made by Jalen Hurd (courtesy of a tweet from Jalen’s mom who is a great follow on Twitter…):

UT Legacy Class

First, if there’s a better look than Jalen’s jacket-vest-shirt-tie combo, I’m unaware of it.

But second, that’s a pretty strong statement. (Not his date, though that’s a pretty strong statement, too. You sly dog, Jalen…) But rather his commitment to the orange. Young man’s rocking it for his prom. And rocking it well, I might add.

Statements like this bode quite well for those of us rooting for a, um, strong finish to the UT Legacy Class of 2014.

Leadership

But so, too, does leadership. Because momentum, a common cause and a bunch of interconnected kids who make strong statements about that common cause? That’s all well and good, but without leadership, it can dissolve into a big fat pile of nothing in the blink of an eye.

Which is where I’m gonna tip my cap to Todd Kelly, Jr. Because he’s been an integral in getting out there and spreading the word. In actually helping to recruit these kids. In being a galvanizing if not driving force for the UT Legacy Class. An ambassador for the school he’s yet to even attend.

Obviously Butch Jones and his staff provide the leadership from the actual team standpoint. And that’s paramount to any good recruiting class. A competent, passionate staff chock full of leaders. But to also have leaders within the class you’re recruiting like TK Jr. and Jalen Hurd who, by their actions or words, reinforce the commitment they’ve made to the university each and every day? Who, by their very actions or words, become the nucleus around which this class of talented recruits revolve?

That’s nothing but good news for the Vol Nation.

Even so, there’s bound to be twists and turns over the next nine months, and this Vol fan isn’t about to count any chickens before the National Signing Day hatch.

But I’ll tell you one thing. Come next February, it sure will be nice to worry about hanging on to what we’ve already got for a change. You know, instead of hoping and praying for a few 11th hour National Signing Day miracles.

Don’t you think?

FOOTNOTE: I purposely kept the references of recruits to a minimum because I didn’t want to get lost in detailing each of the twelve and, instead, wanted to focus on articulating why I think this class is unique / why I feel it really will wind up holding together nicely.

That said, I think one of my Twitter buddies brought up a great point pertaining to one of UT’s first commits — Vic Wharton. Here’s the point that was made, and, Curt, thank you for not only reading, but also tweeting me your thoughts, my friend.

 

header photo courtesy of Arthur Smotherman

follow AVY on Twitter
like AVY on Facebook
get AVV posts delivered to you by email

facebook comments:

  • http://www.facebook.com/norman.waitforit.jacob Norman Jacob

    Great piece, as usual.

    I was reading some discussion on one of the forum sites the other day and thought about this. The way I see it, Coach Jones is going to change the face of recruiting in the SEC. He’s described his offense as a “hurry-up” style offense, and I believe that’s a pretty apt metaphor to describe how he recruits as well. He’s secured a massive number of commits early, and what’s more, he did the same thing while at Cincy and CMU.

    This is not how business has normally been done around these parts. We’re the SEC and we take whichever recruits we want when we want to take them.

    Even Fulmer, who was considered an ace recruiter, liked to lag it through the summer and even through most of the season, and then lock down a bunch of highly rated guys at the last minute. Some “11th Hour Miracles”, if you will. This is still a somewhat common practice.

    The key here is understanding the difference between what Jones is selling here and what he was selling at his last two stops. There, he had to lock in talent early, in order to establish the necessary relationships & compete with bigger schools for recruits.

    Here, we’ve got exponentially better stuff to pitch. Tradition. A passionate fanbase. Our depth chart. The best facilities in the country. And a chance to play on the only college football stage that matters on Saturday afternoons: the SEC. The only thing we lack is a winning record, and I believe that’s coming in the mail. Jones doesn’t necessarily have to hit the recruiting trail so hard so early here, but fact is, he is anyway, and surprise, he’s straight-up CRUSHING it. In a way it hasn’t been crushed in years.

    The exposure, the momentum, the Twitter hype. There’s no way the other coaches aren’t noticing this. Hell, Kevin Sumlin’s doing it too.

    Before, they had nothing to worry about – Cincy wasn’t exactly competing with Georgia or Florida for recruits. Tennessee, on the other hand, does compete with Georgia and Florida for recruits – just look at Orlando Brown’s offer list. Kids are committing to schools earlier and earlier these days, and that trend isn’t going away. What Jones is doing now gives him an edge on the biggest of big boys, and you better believe they’re noticing it.

    Maybe we lose a few guys by the time it’s all said and done. Hell, maybe we keep them all. But you can bet the farm that Jones’ “hurry-up recruitment” isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – and that pretty soon, we won’t be the only ones doing it.

    • http://twitter.com/allVOLyall John Cave Osborne

      i’ve been writing for public consumption for a little over two years now, and i have to tell you, that was one of the best comments i’ve ever read. it should be its own post. WELL SAID, norman. and thank you for sharing your thoughts. they’re spot on, bro.

  • NorthKnoxVol

    Great overview without getting bogged down in specifics of each recruit. Love the holistic angle. Kudos on the parenthetical “Musburgering” of Jalen’s prom date! I was thinking the same thing…

    • http://twitter.com/allVOLyall John Cave Osborne

      if only i’d thought to insert “musbergering” into the post b/c i was, indeed, doing just that. though, it’s fair to note, like Musberger, i was only being honest. looks like Jalen had a lovely, lovely prom date, which makes sense to me. i’ve gotten the chance to speak w/ his mom/step dad via Twitter a time or two and had an in depth conversation w/ his stepdad on the BeRad and JCO show, and i gotta tell you, bro, they’re really stand up people. just nice folks w/ great values.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darryl.lewis.520 Darryl Lewis

    CBJ will not let these guys get away, as he will stay in touch with all to reassure them that they are wanted and needed at UT!!! Unlike previous head coaches at UT, he is relentless and is selling the VOLS at all times!!!!

    • http://twitter.com/allVOLyall John Cave Osborne

      sorry to be so late on this, Darryl, but HELL YEAH and i totally agree with you. i think this class will hold together nicely! thank you for taking the time to read, not to mention comment.