By Alex Norman
It is an unofficial holiday for football fans across the country.
National Signing Day… when grown adults sit on pins and needles as they wait for teenagers they probably will never meet to decide where they will attend college.
This year NSD is on Wednesday, February 7th.
I’m still waiting for the day when a recruit puts an Alabama cap and an Auburn cap on a table, puts one on his head and then immediately sets the other one on fire.
This would start a war.
Tennessee’s football team has had its share of problems over the past 14 months, and the Class of 2018 paid the price. The uncertainty regarding the future of Butch Jones as Tennessee’s head coach forced long time commitments to re-think their decisions.
All-purpose back Lyn-J Dixon, a four-star from Butler, GA, was described by 247Sports as “a dynamic playmaker who is a threat to score every time he touches the football.” He had been committed to Tennessee for months, but de-committed last October. He signed with Clemson during December’s early signing period.
Running back Brendon Harris was another guy that had Tennessee in his future plans, committing to the Vols last May. But the four-star from Baylor School in Chattanooga de-committed in early October, only a few days after Tennessee’s 41-0 loss to Georgia. He ended up signing with Vanderbilt.
The biggest blow to Tennessee’s Class of 2018 came when five-star offensive lineman Cade Mays de-committed in November. His story is well known amongst Vols fans. Mays is a Tennessee legacy. His Dad and Uncle both played for the Vols under Phillip Fulmer. He committed to the Vols back in the summer of 2015.
Mays ended up signing with Tennessee’s divisional rival, Georgia.
The advent of the new early signing period was not a good thing for Tennessee and new head coach Jeremy Pruitt. While he was still preparing for Alabama’s national playoff semifinal game against Clemson (Pruitt was the Tide defensive coordinator), there were key high school players getting ready to sign from December 20-22.
In years past, Pruitt would have had until the first week in February to catch up. Instead, a good number of top prospects made their decisions official early.
But new Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer has complete confidence in Pruitt.
“Oh, he has a plan,” Fulmer told 247Sports. “He’s been around some really good coaches at really good places. He knows what it’s supposed to look like. He kind of followed up with his commitment to me as to who he thought he could bring with him. That’s who showed up, which was good. He showed he can turn recruiting around in a hurry. We tripled our recruiting board in like two days, with that staff — and not people that we were looking at, but people that were looking at us. That made a big difference. Unfortunately we had the early signing period. I’d like to have had another couple weeks with that, or it could have been really good. But we got recruiting turned and turned quickly, and hopefully we can finish strong here. That’s the foundation of winning, is having the good players here.”
At last look Tennessee had the 19th best class in the nation according to 247Sports. With a few big signings on Wednesday, the Vols could finish in the top 15, which would be quite the accomplishment considering where that class stood back in early December.
Either way Tennessee fans hope now that the program is on stable ground, which will lead to even better National Signing Days in the future.