Success brings in top prospects. Programs like Alabama and Georgia consistently sit atop recruiting rankings thanks to the reputation they’ve built. Tennessee football is trying to climb that ladder.
Josh Heupel is rebuilding the Vols, and they are up to a top-10 class in the 2023 cycle. UT appears to be on a path back to where it once was: the epitome of college football.
“(This program) is known for winning games,” Jacob Warren told Off The Hook Sports. “I think a lot of younger people, especially even myself, whenever I was being recruited, you don’t understand the tradition. You don’t understand that Tennessee, like I think again now but used to be back in the day, that was the school, right, like that, that was where everybody wanted to be.”
Heupel has grabbed the top two prospects in the state of Tennessee. Most recently, Arion Carter pledged his talents to Tennessee football over Alabama and Ohio State.
Most thought that Nick Saban and Alabama had Carter on lock, but Heupel’s late push was enough to land the four-star linebacker.
During the turmoil of the late 2010s, Tennessee recruiting classes would consistently rank outside of the top-10 and fail to have in-state prospects. When the Vols landed in-state prospects before Heupel, they usually weren’t highly ranked.
Now, Heupel has made his mark on the Tri-Star State. In the southeast, with so much talent, it is essential that you are able to recruit your home state.
“We’ve all, kind of, put it back on the map and started to become a nationally recognized team,” Warren said. “It gives a lot of kids in Tennessee the opportunity to do something special, to come here and to have pride, whereas before they may have been, not embarrassed, but you know maybe written it off because they’re no good. It doesn’t matter if they’re my hometown team. Whatever, like I don’t want to be there right now. It just adds more incentive for these guys to stay home and these guys to represent their state and represent their town.”
Tennessee has historically been a national brand, and Heupel is rebuilding the blue blood program.
Now a senior, Warren has seen the rebuild firsthand. The job isn’t finished, but the Vols have come a long way from the years of Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt.
“Beyond football, this brand goes with you right now, long after would be playing here,” Warren said. “People will hopefully at least remember what I did here and what the teams that I was on did here. The longer you’re here, the more you realize how impactful this place is and how much pull this place has in this area.”