Feb. 6, 2014
By Alex Cate NASHVILLE, Tenn.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- More than a year ago Butch Jones stepped up to the podium deep under the bleachers of Neyland Stadium, in front of the swarm of media gathered in the Peyton Manning Locker Room.
There, on Dec. 7, 2013 the newly-hired Tennessee football head coach laid the foundation for how he would build the program back to its rightful place of college football prominence: Brick By Brick.
"Let me make no mistake that we are going to win first and foremost with the great state of Tennessee," he said. "We have tremendous high school coaches in this state. We are the state institution and we will own our state. We are going to be at every high in the state and our players are going to understand what is to wear the power T, they're going to understand what it is to represent their home institution. I take great pride in that."
Fast forward to Wednesday, his second National Signing Day in Knoxville. With one year under his belt Jones and his staff looked to promise on their commitment to recruitment in the state of Tennessee.
In locking down Tennessee, it quickly became evident that the Midstate would be an important piece to the puzzle. All in all, the Vols signed eight Midstate recruits Wednesday - something Jones says hasn't been done since the 1960s under Doug Dickey.
"There is a lot of energy surrounding Tennessee football and a lot of pride as well," Jones said told the sellout crowd assembled at the Nashville recruiting celebration on Thursday. "There is a lot of positive energy and these individuals wanted that responsibility, they wanted that challenge of helping build Tennessee football back. We want individuals that have grown up on Tennessee football that understand what it is to represent the great people in this state."
After all the faxes were received, seven of The Tennessean's Dandy Dozen - a list of the top Midstate area players - landed with the Volunteers. The only Middle Tennessee signee not included on that list is kicker Aaron Medley (Lewisburg, Tenn.) who is regarded as a top five kicker in the country.
Five-star recruits Jalen Hurd from Beech High School and Josh Malone of Station Camp High School highlight this year's group. Both are already enrolled at UT in hopes of getting a head start in mastering their positions.
Four-stars Jashon Roberston (Montgomery Bell Academy), Derek Barnett (Brentwood Academy), Michael Sawyers (Ensworth), Rashaan Gaulden and Vic Wharton (Independence High School) round out the esteemed group that helped the 2014 Tennessee class become a consensus top five recruiting class.
With the metro Nashville population on the rise and the Volunteers commitment to building a wall around the state of Tennessee in regards to recruiting it seems to reason that Middle Tennessee will be seeing plenty of Jones and company.