NCF On The Trail: Butch Jones


The Opening presented by Nike Football will take place July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects set to compete. With four days of dynamic training, competition and recruits targeting uncommitted players to come to their chosen school, there's bound to be some players who see their stock improve and some wild recruiting news that comes out of left field.

Here are five bold predictions of what will happen at the prestigious event:

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: The SEC’s raid on talent continued over the weekend as Tennessee, a team that hasn’t been talked about much despite a top-10 ranking, reeled in an impressive trio of commitments. Plus, Arizona State and Stanford have developed into rivals both on the field and on the recruiting trail, which makes the battle to land one of the nation’s best receivers even more entertaining.

Tennessee's class is getting overlooked


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: After a few weeks to recover from national signing day, it’s always interesting to analyze the data to get a better understanding of what really happened. To me, there’s no better test of a program’s recruiting momentum than to see how they climbed from one class to another. And programs like Boston College, NC State and Stanford are definitely trending upward.

New to the mix
Boston College, Syracuse and Western Michigan were the three schools you could make a case climbed the most from the 2013 to 2014 recruiting class, especially the Eagles. None of the three programs were ranked in the 2013 top 75, but Boston College climbed all the way to No. 42 overall in 2014. The Eagles' class was headlined by former Rutgers commit and ESPN 300 prospect Jonathan Hilliman, who is expected to have an instant impact at running back. Syracuse (60) and Western Michigan’s (68) entrance into the rankings weren't as high as the Eagles’ but it’s a step in the right direction if you’re a fan of both programs. There are many, including me, that believe the Broncos signed the best class ever in the MAC. Insider

Top-5 climbers


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Now that the 2014 class is in the books it’s time to take a look at which teams need to make a big splash in recruiting for the 2015 class. Below are five teams we feel have to perform well in recruiting to move forward and re-establish their programs among the college football elite. There are always peaks and valleys in recruiting, but there’s also an expectation level that some programs no matter what will always perform to a high standard and that’s not always realistic.

For these programs, it won’t just be about how good the players are that they sign in 2015; it will also be about what type of person that player is to represent the program and establish a new chemistry. These programs are laying down a new foundation, and it will be this class that will be looked back upon as one that got the ball rolling. These programs need to make the Tennessee-type splash of 2014. Just ask Ole Miss about its 2013 class and what one recruiting cycle can do to reenergize a program. We’ve closed the door on the 2014 class now, here’s to opening the door for the 2015 class. Let’s get off to a fast start shall we?


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Early Offer: Frustrating final week 

January, 29, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings.

Today’s offerings
After recruiting prospects for two years, it’s now down to the final week for coaches chasing players in the 2014 class. That brings frustrations about recruits changing their minds over and over. Also, how is Tennessee able to land so many recruits this year? And NC State has assembled a sneaky good class.


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Even Nick Saban can find some time to relax and let loose.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsMaybe Lane Kiffin's skill with a microphone aren't best used addressing the media.
Known more for his on-field scowls and stern deliveries at his press conferences, Saban has much more personality than he lets on when he's talking about his team with the microphones and cameras in his face. I mean, look at the job he did during the coverage of this year's VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. The man can talk.

But it also appears that he can also dance. More specifically, he can slide.

During a big recruiting weekend on campus, Saban entertained guests by partaking in the electric slide, which is a must for anyone with any ounce of soul or rhythm. If it's tricky for you, I suggest you either check Saban out and learn quickly before you're invited to any sort of shindig that has a dance floor.

ESPN 300 linebacker Rashaan Evans was in town on an official visit and his brother, Alex, captured part of the special moment on video and uploaded it to Vine. You can see it here. It's only six seconds long, but the little bit that you see of Saban is great. As a certified pro at the electric slide, I was really impressed with Saban's moves.

But what might have been even more impressive was the karaoke session new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had with ESPN 300 running back commit Bo Scarbrough's mother, Donetris.

Here's what she told 247Sports about singing what had to be a very special duet of the song "Sweet Home Alabama":
"I think if you're new there, you have to do karaoke. It's kind of the theme with the new coaches. Everyone has to do a karaoke night. It was his turn and he kept on hiding. He told me, 'I think I'll go on ahead and do it, if you sing with me.'

"It made the night. It was the talk of the night."

Dancing is one thing, but singing is a whole different arena. As a former musical theater student, I'd jump at the chance, but not everyone has belted like I have. Kudos to Kiffin for letting those vocal cords go. Adding some air guitar to the whole thing would have just been icing on an already delicious cake.

It's just more proof that these coaches are, in fact, human. They aren't the robots they sometimes make themselves out to be. They have fun sides and know how to entertain when it's time to get out of coach mode. That had to be a pretty fun experience for everyone.

So which coaches would you guys love to see dance in public? Who would you love to see perform some beautiful karaoke, and what song would you pick?

I'd love to see soft-spoken Tennessee coach Butch Jones go solo with Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball." Singing only, of course. Maybe throw some Kanye West or Katy Perry at him to keep him on his toes. And clearly everyone wants to see Arkansas coach Bret Bielema do the "Dougie."

Early Offer: Vols on recruiting tear 

December, 5, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Butch Jones is producing the recruiting story of the year with his efforts in Knoxville; Alabama continues to add to its prize recruiting class with another blue-chip defender; the signing period for mid-term junior college recruits is two weeks away and the push to land the undecided will be fierce.

UT adds 11th ESPN 300 prospect

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ESPN 300 WR Malone picks Vols

December, 4, 2013
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Since arriving in Knoxville, Tennessee coach Butch Jones has focused intently on keeping the best prospects in the state at home. The Vols took another step toward that goal Wednesday after Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp), the top-rated player in the state, committed to Tennessee. Malone is the No. 48 overall prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 6 wide receiver.

The 6-foot-2, 191-pound Malone chose Tennessee over Clemson and Georgia in a recruitment that kept many on the edge of their seats.

The talented playmaker began his official visits on Sept. 27 with a trip to Athens to visit Georgia, which was once considered the favorite. Following the visit to Georgia, Malone made official visits to Tennessee on Oct. 5, Ohio State on Oct. 26, Florida State on Nov. 1 and Clemson on Nov. 22. Many thought the SEC would dominate Malone’s list, but Clemson proved to be the toughest competition for Tennessee.

The Vols now have four of the top six prospects in the state committed. In addition to Malone, Tennessee has reeled in ESPN 300 prospects No. 59 overall Todd Kelly Jr. (Knoxville, Tenn./Webb School of Knoxville), No. 62 Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech Senior High) and No. 296 Derek Barnett (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy).

Currently ranked No. 2 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, the Vols have 33 commitments, including 11 ESPN 300 commitments and 17 four-star prospects. The Vols also boast five junior college transfers ranked in the recently released ESPN JC 50. The class features prospects from 11 states, plus the District of Columbia.

But Jones is not done yet. The Vols are still in the hunt for three-star lineman Charles Mosley (Brighton, Tenn./Brighton), with a decision likely at the end of this week, as well as No. 7-ranked Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), No. 61 Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) and No. 108 Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock), among others.

#AskLoogs: Grading Butch Jones

August, 22, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



As of now, I give them an “A”. The question is going to be whether the Vols can hold on. Recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint. With 24 total pledges -- and 10 in the ESPN 300 -- most of whom have no doubt been pursued by other SEC and ACC programs, Tennessee has hit the ground running in Butch Jones' first full recruiting year.

The class is littered with not only the best in Tennessee, but also with players who fill specific needs for the Vols. The juco ranks have been recruited hard for some maturity and experience, which is generally not the case at Tennessee. I think WR Dominique Booth will be a nice addition to Marquez North. RB Jalen Hurd could be a potential early impact guy.

What happens, though, if Tennessee hits see serious bumps in the road on the field? Will the Vols lose momentum? Are these commits banking on the future and not concerned about this fall? You can bet if things don’t go well, the chum will be in the water and the sharks will be circling, trying to peck away at Tennessee in order to get prospects to rethink their decisions. There is lots of time between now and February. Jones and his staff know full well that it will get harder once the season starts.

Scouting Bates’ role at Tennessee 

July, 3, 2013
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ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates committed to Tennessee on Wednesday at The Opening. Here's how RecruitingNation’s talent scouts think he’ll fit in Knoxville.


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- With some players, there is some suspense on which school they will eventually pick. But with others such as Dillon Bates, the nation’s No. 92 player and No. 3 outside linebacker in the country, there really isn’t.

It was no shock that Bates, who is 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, announced his commitment to the Tennessee Volunteers on Wednesday at The Opening. Bates’ father, Dallas Cowboys special-teams legend Bill Bates, played for the Volunteers in the early 1980s before a 15-year career with Dallas.


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Recruiting pitches: SEC

May, 10, 2013
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Inspired by Florida's "#ComePlayWRFortheJoker" campaign, our recruiting writers looked at other ways schools can sell themselves on the trail. Here's a look at recruiting pitches for the SEC:

Alabama Crimson Tide
What they are selling:
What's not to sell? Alabama is coming off back-to-back national championships, and the Crimson Tide had nine players taken in April's NFL draft, including three in the first round. For the critics who say you won't play early at UA, ask T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper how much they contributed as freshmen.

What they are missing: Although they won a national championship, the Tide didn't generate much pass rush last fall, and they had trouble containing freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Also, they need to rebuild the offensive line, a unit that anchored the offense last year.

Arkansas Razorbacks
What they are selling:
New head coach Bret Bielema runs a completely different offensive system than the previous two Arkansas coaches. The Razorbacks are selling an opportunity for freshmen to come in and earn playing time early in their careers.

What they are missing: The Razorbacks signed only one offensive lineman, Denver Kirkland, who was rated a four-star prospect or higher last year. In this run-heavy system, look for Arkansas to focus on landing talented players along the offensive line.

Auburn Tigers
What they are selling:
It's a new regime for Auburn, but there's a familiar face running the show. New head coach Gus Malzahn knows the program from his days as offensive coordinator. He's already shown the ability to recruit, stealing ESPN 150 linebacker Tre Williams away from the Tide. There's a sense of excitement on The Plains again.

What they are missing: Malzahn filled out his first recruiting class with playmakers, but Auburn needs to build up front on the offensive and defensive lines. No matter what offense you run, if you want to win in the SEC, you need to be able to compete up in the trenches.

Florida Gators
What they are selling:
With no proven wide receivers on the perimeter, Florida is attempting to sell early playing time at the position. A chance to play for one of the best defensive minds in college football in Will Muschamp is another selling point to defensive prospects.

What they are missing: Production on offense. After finishing 114th nationally in passing offense, it will be hard to sell playing time to wide receivers without an explosive passing game in place.

Georgia Bulldogs
What they are selling:
Freshmen, if they're good enough, play early at Georgia. From running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to offensive tackle John Theus to defensive end Jordan Jenkins, several freshmen Bulldogs made major contributions on a team that was a few yards away from making the national championship game.

What they are missing: Georgia has brought in four top-12 recruiting classes in the last four years. Depth might become an issue for some recruits, but Georgia has certainly shown a willingness to play younger players.

Kentucky Wildcats
What they are selling:
After finishing 2-10, Kentucky fired coach Joker Phillips. New head coach Mark Stoops is offering a fresh start and a chance to help build Kentucky in to a contender in the SEC East.

What they are missing: Plain and simple -- tradition. Sure, Kentucky is full of basketball tradition, but the success on the hardwood completely overshadows the football program. A record 50,831 fans attended the Wildcats' spring game, so the interest level is certainly headed in the right direction.

LSU Tigers
What they are selling:
An unprecedented 10 underclassmen declared for the NFL draft. LSU is selling the opportunity, not only for early playing time because of the departures, but a chance to make it to the NFL in three years.

What they are missing: Because of all the departures, there are some holes on both sides of the ball. Depth is now an issue at running back and LSU will need to replace Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and linebacker Kevin Minter.

Ole Miss Rebels
What they are selling:
Ole Miss landed the No. 5-ranked class in the country, including No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche and No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Look for Ole Miss to sell recruits on the opportunity to help build something special under head coach Hugh Freeze.

What they are missing: Freeze brought a creative and innovative offense to the SEC, but the defense is still a work in progress. Ole Miss finished 12th in the SEC in pass defense and will need to continue to build depth in order to compete for the SEC West championship.

Mississippi State Bulldogs
What they are selling:
Only 11 of 22 starters return for a team that finished 8-5 last year. The Bulldogs offer recruits a chance to play early and play in the best division in college football.

What they are missing: Mississippi State returns its starting quarterback Tyler Russell, but who will he be throwing to? Last year's four leading receivers, including Chad Bumphis, are gone. Look for the Bulldogs to focus on offensive weapons in this recruiting class.

Missouri Tigers
What they are selling:
The Tigers return 14 of 22 starters on a team that went 5-7 in its first year in the SEC East. Missouri runs a fun and innovative offense that is sure to attract recruits, and there is certainly an opportunity to play early.

What they are missing: The defensive line is probably the most critical area on any defense in the SEC, and the Tigers lost their best lineman in Sheldon Richardson. Mizzou must find a viable replacement for Richardson and linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner.

South Carolina Gamecocks
What they are selling:
The Gamecocks have been dominant on defense over the last few years, and a strong line is a big part of their success. South Carolina is selling an opportunity to be the next Jadeveon Clowney and be a part of one of the top defenses in the SEC.

What they are missing: Hard to believe, but head coach Steve Spurrier needs help at wide receiver. The Gamecocks signed only one wide receiver in their 2013 class. They have young bodies, but not much depth or production from the returning group.

Tennessee Volunteers
What they are selling:
A fresh start under new head coach Butch Jones. Since 2011, Tennessee has finished with the No. 13, 21 and 29 recruiting classes in the country. There plenty of holes to fill, and any incoming freshman will have plenty of opportunities to earn a starting spot.

What they are missing: Tennessee lost wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to the NFL draft and must replace their production on the outside. The Volunteers are also thin in the secondary and will look to recruiting to plug some key holes on defense.

Texas A&M Aggies
What they are selling:
There is a lot to sell a recruit on at Texas A&M right now. An explosive offense which led the SEC in total offense by more than 100 yards a game, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and a team that went into Tuscaloosa and handed Alabama its only loss last season.

What they are missing: There are still some holes to fill on defense. The Aggies finished with the No. 8-ranked defense in the SEC and the No. 10-ranked pass defense in the league. They also need to replace talented defensive end Damontre Moore, who is now in the NFL.

Vanderbilt Commodores
What they are selling:
Head coach James Franklin has taken Vanderbilt to a bowl in two consecutive years, and the Commodores are bringing in a solid recruiting class. Selling recruits on an opportunity to play at Vanderbilt during one of the best eras in the school's football history is enticing to high school recruits.

What they are missing: Vanderbilt is not yet on par with other SEC schools as far as facilities. The Commodores, though, are certainly headed in the right direction. A new indoor practice facility is being constructed, and stadium renovations are in the planning stages.

ESPN 150 CB Ramsey talks final visit 

December, 20, 2012
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Tennessee is working hard to get back in the race for ESPN 150 cornerback and USC Trojans commit Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy). Apparently, it's going to take a lot more work.

The Volunteers have put the hard press on the No. 1 prospect in the state. Ramsey said he has spoken to new UT coach Butch Jones, running backs coach Jay Graham, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and tight ends coach Mark Elder since the group was hired this month.

Jones was hired to replace Derek Dooley, who was fired after the 2012 season, and Dooley never had a strong connection with Ramsey. Unlike Dooley, Jones has a history of success at various programs.

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Juco DT Bradley set to sign 

December, 18, 2012
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Three-star junior college defensive tackle Ben Bradley (Hutchinson, Kan./Hutchinson CC) has been committed to Tennessee for six months. But is that where he’s going to sign Wednesday?

“I’m not sure,” Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades said. “I don’t know. A lot of things have changed, and he’s had a lot to think about.”


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Robert Davis decommits from Cincinnati 

December, 8, 2012
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Almost immediately following the news that Cincinnati had hired Tommy Tuberville as coach, three-star running back commitment Robert Davis (Tampa, Fla./Carrollwood Day) removed himself from the commitment list.

Butch Jones' departure for Tennessee, though, had more to do with it.

"Yes sir, I have reopened my options after Butch Jones left and am now meeting with Memphis and Boston College," Davis said.

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