The Tennessee Vols received their first commitment to the 2022 recruiting class on Wednesday afternoon.

Three-star linebacker Elijah Herring, 6-foot-2/225 lbs from Murfreesboro, TN (Riverdale), announced his commitment to the Vols via Twitter.

Herring is rated by 247Sports as the No. 24 player in Tennessee and the No. 56 outside linebacker in the nation.

After committing to the Vols, Herring spoke with VolQuest’s Austin Price about why he decided to commit to Josh Heupel and Tennessee.

One of the main things that sold Herring on the Vols is the coaching continuity and family atmosphere that Tennessee has under Heupel.

“They talked about…how everything is family-oriented, how they all knew each other from past years, how they could just make the program great again,” said Herring.

Heupel has made “family” one of his main talking points during his first couple of months in Knoxville. Creating a family culture for a football program isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea. It’s how most head coaches approach their team.

But not every head coach is successful at doing it.

Previous Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt cared deeply about his players. He even cared deeply about the players that he recruited and didn’t sign. There are a lot of areas where Pruitt failed as a head coach at Tennessee, but I truly believe the players were his priority.

But even with Pruitt caring so deeply, the Vols still lacked a true family atmosphere under Pruitt. That’s likely because Tennessee’s coaching staff under Pruitt was a revolving door of assistants. The Vols had an unusually high turnover rate among assistants under Pruitt, which made any sort of continuity impossible.

Creating a family atmosphere is impossible without a certain level of continuity.

Heupel has that continuity at Tennessee. He’s coached with nearly every coach on his staff before. And the ones he hasn’t coached with, have crossed paths at some point with the other assistants. These guys know each other. They know how each other operates. They know each other’s tendencies. They know each other personally.

The vibe from the coaching staff is going to permeate to the players. The previous coaching staff obviously had some negative vibes (firing a defensive line coach for no reason four games into a season is a clear sign of toxicity), which had a negative impact on the team.

That won’t be the case under Heupel.

Tennessee’s culture is changing under Heupel. Eventually, it will lead to wins. I don’t know how long it’ll take. And neither does Heupel (or any of the national talking heads). But the Vols are going to find at least a moderate level of success under Heupel. This isn’t going to be a complete failure like the Pruitt era.

Heupel’s high-powered offense will obviously be the biggest reason why the Vols find success in the coming years. But that genuine family atmosphere that Heupel is creating is what’s going to allow that offense to operate at a high level in the most critical moments of key games.

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