Recruiting is all about relationships.
Any coach will tell you that. Establishing relationships with players is the No. 1 priority for any college coach. It has been even more important for Tennessee.
In the years where the Vols have struggled on the field, recruiting struggles followed. Tennessee can’t look back on recent championships like other programs can, they must rely on getting in with prospects early and forming relationships.
As Josh Heupel continues to succeed, this may change. But for now, Heupel has become elite at forming relationships with high school prospects.
Heupel has also emphasized an often overlooked part of the process… relationships with high school coaches.
Don’t believe it’s important? Let’s look at Miami.
Manny Diaz, the Hurricanes previous head coach, recruited the state of Florida heavily. As one of the most talent-rich states, that is no surprise. Diaz formed relationships with high school coaches in the state so that he could be the No. 1 coach when that high school produced talent.
Diaz produced back-to-back classes that sat at No. 11 in the country. The classes were loaded with Florida talent. Unfortunately, that didn’t transfer to the field.
In comes Mario Cristobal. The new coach who came from Oregon began the roster overhaul. While not as major as Deion Sanders at Colorado, Cristobal brought in new talent while having others go into the portal.
The kids he ran off happened to be Florida kids. For obvious reasons, this upset their high school coaches and severed possible relationships. In a state like Florida, this could become Miami’s nail in the coffin.
The Hurricane’s current class is ranked No. 26, featuring seven commits. Of the commits, only three are from Florida and only one is ranked above a three-star prospect.
Could this change? Yes, but it is not trending the right way.
Now back to Tennessee, Heupel has hit the state of Georgia hard. He has also had success, pulling guys out of the Peach State that the Vols would not have gotten in year’s past.
The reason for this success? His coaching staff is forming relationships in the state of Georgia.
These relationships don’t go away when a school doesn’t have any top prospects. Diaz at Miami would visit Florida schools to just visit, not even recruit athletes. Tennessee has done the same thing.
The Vols pulled seven prospects out of Georgia for their 2022 class and they weren’t low-ranked prospects. The strategy works, and Heupel is continuing to build relationships.