It has been well documented that Tennessee football is chasing Alabama and Georgia in recruiting. So is most everyone in the nation. However, there’s now another college football program that the Vols need to be concerned with.
South Carolina may never outrank Tennessee in recruiting, but the Gamecocks can certainly be a spur in the Vols’ recruiting saddle. The Gamecocks’ 2023 class ranked No. 16 in the nation while the Vols finished ninth after National Signing Day wrapped up on Wednesday. Tennessee clearly has an advantage, but they could use more.
South Carolina’s sudden competence in recruiting is no doubt a result of the way it finished the season last year. The Gamecocks looked listless before upset wins against Tennessee and Clemson. Not surprisingly, that optimism has helped in recruiting and there are no signs that things will be slowing down in Columbia anytime soon.
Tennessee has no one to blame but itself for opening the door of opportunity for the Gamecocks with how the Vols played in Columbia in November. Now, it’s showing up in recruiting – big time.
The Gamecocks have four commitments for the 2024 class. All are four-star prospects, including a key Tennessee football target: Kam Pringle from Woodland High School in Dorchester, S.C. The four-star offensive lineman committed to South Carolina in January over a host of schools including Tennessee, which was one of his finalists.
Those are the type of players that the Vols would love to snag from the Carolinas. Those are the type of players that the Vols have cherry picked from the area when they’ve been at their best.
South Carolina’s newfound momentum on the field and in recruiting may be short lived if the Gamecocks struggle on the field this season, as they did for much of 2022. If that happens, other schools like Tennessee will try to swoop in and steal Pringle and any other verbal pledge that Gamecock head coach Shane Beamer has lined up.
There’s also the transfer portal. If Beamer’s dynamic wins over the Vols and Tigers turn out to be fool’s gold, then those players could bolt for other schools. However, that’s all hypothetical. It’s also possible that Beamer Ball could continue to win games and win over recruits. That would be bad for the Vols.
South Carolina wasn’t much of a concern a year ago when it finished 24th in the nation in recruiting. Now, the Vols have to fend off a pesky program that may not be as much of a threat as Bama or Georgia, but there’s no doubt that the Gamecocks’ success, or lack thereof, will have an affect on the future of Tennessee football.
Tennessee’s other SEC East rival, Florida, seems to be stumbling its way through another rebuild. The Gators’ 2023 class finished 14th in the nation. That’s about rock bottom considering the talent nearby. Then, there’s the entire Jaden Rashada incident in which Florida can’t even figure out how to pay players when it’s allowed.
It seems odd to say, but Tennessee football should be more concerned with the Gamecocks than the Gators. Beamer has to prove he’s a great coach and more than just a bombastic, passionate coach that will naturally attract kids, but for now that’s working in recruiting.
Meanwhile, Florida coach Billy Napier and the Gators collective group(s) haven’t even figured how to play the NIL game. The Vols have that covered. Now, they just need to make sure they can top South Carolina when a top prospect is on the line.