The Tennessee Vols have landed 15 commitments since mid-March, which has resulted in UT’s 2021 recruiting class vaulting up the 247Sports composite team rankings.

Tennessee’s 2021 recruiting class currently sits at No. 2 in the nation, behind Ohio State.

Of course, it’s only May. There’s a lot of time left in the recruiting cycle. With a litany of highly touted uncommitted recruits still on the market, other programs will undoubtedly rise in the rankings.

The Vols have 22 commitments at the moment, which means they don’t have room to add many more players (Tennessee signed 23 players in 2020, 22 in 2019 and 22 in 2018).

As of now, the Volunteers’ 247Sports composite “points total” is 254.18.

A year ago, Tennessee finished with the No. 10 class in the nation with a points total of 261.50.

254.18 points would’ve meant the Vols finished with the No. 16 class in the nation in last year’s recruiting cycle.

Over the last five years, the No. 5 class in the nation has finished with a point total anywhere from 281 to 296.

That’s basically the range Tennessee needs to get to in order to have a top five class in 2021.

So how do they get there?

Well first we have to take a look at how the 247Sports composite team point totals are calculated.

Here’s the explanation from 247Sports:

Each recruit is weighted in the rankings according to a GAUSSIAN DISTRIBUTION FORMULA (a bell curve), where a team’s best recruit is worth the most points. You can think of a team’s point score as being the sum of ratings of all the team’s commits where the best recruit is worth 100% of his rating value, the second best recruit is worth nearly 100% of his rating value, down to the last recruit who is worth a small fraction of his rating value. This formula ensures that all commits contribute at least some value to the team’s score without heavily rewarding teams that have several more commitments than others.

Readers familiar with the Gaussian distribution formula will note that we use a varying value for σ based on the standard deviation for the total number of commits between schools for the given sport. This STANDARD DEVIATION creates a bell curve with an inflection point near the average number of players recruited per team.

That’s a bit confusing — especially if you’re not a big math person (which I’m not).

To make it simple, a high five-star ends up being worth around 28-29 points. A high four-star is worth around 24 points. A high three-star is worth about 11 points. And a low three-star is only worth about one point.

(The forumla is basically a bell curve, so this can differ depending on how many players a program signs. But since most programs sign close to 25, this is typically how it breaks down.)

For example, Terrence Lewis, the Vols’ highest rated commit is worth 29.41 points. Aaron Willis, UT’s highest rated four-star commit, is worth 24.57 points.

Colby Smith, the highest rated three-star that’s committed to Tennessee, is worth 11.19 points.

You can see the full list here.

So the Vols need to add at least 30 points to their total to get in that top five range.

But it’s not as simple as adding one five-star player.

If the Vols were to get a commitment from Amarius Mims (a five-star offensive tackle), their point total would only go up to 265.52 (because of the formula that 247Sports uses, it would lower the value of every other commit…which is the bell curve).

You can see how this is going to be tough for the Vols to get into the top five with their current commit list.

In fact, the only way I think Tennessee can get into the top five is to “lose” a couple of their lower rated three-star commits.

(Note: re-rankings could change how this point total looks, but it’s unclear if/when those re-rankings will occur without camps/evaluations this summer)

But what if that’s not something Jeremy Pruitt wants to do?

What if the staff looks at defensive lineman Issac Washington, the Vols’ lowest rated commit, and sees a four-star talent?

I don’t think Tennessee is going to drop a player they believe in to simply to rise in the recruiting rankings.

However, I think it’s important that UT finishes high in the recruiting rankings. Not only will it help future recruiting momentum, but I’m a firm believer that top five programs are born from top five recruiting classes.

The recruiting ratings aren’t perfect, but they give us a good idea of how much talent a signing class has.

Ultimately, I think Tennessee’s 2021 signing class will look different than what we see right now. I think we’ll see some of those three-star players end up looking elsewhere.

Recruiting is a numbers game. And with the Vols being players for some highly rated recruits, cutting some of their lower rated recruits loose may be the only choice they have.

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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