JOE BIDDLE: Vols on slippery slope

(Photo: WKRN)

Recruiting has been at its best and will remain, an inexact science.

Still, college football fans cling to where their favorite teams land in the rankings.

It’s all about the numbers.

When Tennessee Coach Butch Jones swept through the state and signed most of the blue chippers that put them in the top echelon during his early years on the Hill, Vols fans stuck out their chests to proclaim the future was bright.

This week, the 247 website ranked the Vols No. 17. That was far below his second and third year classes that 247 judged sixth and fourth. Last year’s haul of high school signees was No. 14. The trend is sliding in the wrong direction.

Jones has latched on to the best of the best in this state, for a long time once known for a recruiting wasteland. Of course he was positive about this year’s class.

But when Clemson came in this year and took two highly recruited players out from under Jones’ nose, it left a sour taste in Tennessee fans’ mouths. Clemson fans were not happy with its No. 16 ranking. After all the Tigers played Alabama for the national championship the past two seasons.

Once again, Alabama brought in the top rated class. The rich get richer and the rest have to make like they are satisfied with the bottom rung of the Top 20 class.

Bama bagged a hand-full of five-star recruits, added 18 four-star players and four three-star players.

The Vols claimed one five-star lad, four four-stars and 23 with three stars by their names.

Now they can tell you that Jalen Hurd was a five-star stud running back and three years later where is he? Hurd, a home-grown Mid-state star left the Vols during the season and is trying to decide if he will transfer to a power five team and sit out this coming season or declare for the upcoming NFL draft.

Hurd is said to have been unhappy with the way Jones and his offensive staff used him in their offense.

Did I tell you a high number of 5-star players are also high risks? In Sunday’s Super Bowl teams, it has been reported that among the starting offenses and defenses, there are only three starters who were five star recruits out of high school.

New England quarterback Tom Brady was a 3-star high school recruit who shared playing time at Michigan. Brady has turned out to be the best quarterback in the NFL and a shoo-in Hall of Famer.

Brady is an exception. He landed with a team whose coach has the best brains in the business in Bill Belichick. Brady’s work ethic is second to none.

No wonder there are more recruits like Jalen Hurd than Tom Brady.

Recruiting services and television networks have turned signing day into a circus. They glorify these teenagers by devoting hours and hours of recruiting shows.

Recruits invite the cameras into their homes and schools on signing day. A lot of them are on the stage sitting behind a desk with three or more baseball hats of school they have whittled down to the chosen number of college programs.

Oh, the drama. Oh, the sweaty palms of coaches such as Butch Jones. After a disappointing season that included losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the Vols Forever fanatics saw their SEC Championship dreams go down the drain.

This is a pivotal year for Jones. And a No. 17-ranked recruiting class is stirring the pot.

Jones needs to build a wall (sound familiar?) around the state every year to ensure getting almost every Tennessee high school prospect he wants.

Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Hall of Fame. He can be reached at