Over the last three days, the Tennessee Vols have missed on their top two 2022 quarterback targets.
On Friday, five-star quarterback Ty Simpson, an in-state recruit, announced his commitment to Alabama.
After Simpson’s commitment, I detailed why I didn’t think missing on Simpson was a big deal for the Vols. Essentially, it came down to having four-star quarterback Sam Horn as an option.
Horn, the No. 9 overall 2022 player in Georgia, grew up rooting for Tennessee. And he’s a great fit for Josh Heupel’s offense.
But unfortunately for the Vols, Horn committed to Missouri on Sunday evening.
— Sam Horn (@_sam_horn) March 1, 2021
Horn is a tough loss for the Vols. He’s a kid that should’ve been a slam dunk for Tennessee. But previous head coach Jeremy Pruitt completely ignored Horn. Heupel did a good job of recruiting the talented quarterback over the last month, but it simply wasn’t enough time to build a solid relationship.
2022 quarterbacks seem to be committing in droves right now, hoping to lock in their spots before spring practice (the transfer portal has turned the recruiting world and typical timelines upside down).
So where do the Vols turn now?
The good news is that Tennessee already has some tremendous talent on the roster. Harrison Bailey and Kaidon Salter are both former highly rated recruits. Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker is a great option that provides UT with some experience. And Brian Maurer is a player that could actually be a good fit in Heupel’s offense.
The Vols aren’t hurting at quarterback. But here’s the thing with quarterbacks in college football: coaches can never stop recruiting them. Programs are never “set” at the quarterback position. Injuries happen, players transfer, kids struggle. College coaches have to basically hoard quarterbacks and hope for the best.
That’s going to be tough for Heupel at Tennessee — at least at first.
And a recent quote from a 2022 quarterback shows us exactly why landing elite quarterbacks, in general, is going to be a tall task for Heupel and his staff.
Four-star quarterback Tayven Jackson, an Indiana product who also has an offer from Florida, was offered by Tennessee on Sunday — presumably because of Horn’s commitment to Missouri.
Jackson spoke with VolQuest after receiving his offer from UT and there was one particular comment that stood out.
“I know that Peyton Manning went there and that’s really all I know about the school,” said Jackson.
That’s a problem.
A four-star quarterback from Indiana doesn’t know anything else about Tennessee except that Peyton Manning went there nearly 25 years ago.
UT simply isn’t relevant to recruits — unless they have a particular connection to the program.
The kids that Tennessee’s recruiting were born in the early 2000s. Their first memory of Vol football — if they have any memories at all — is likely the Derek Dooley era.
That means that the 2015 and 2016 seasons under Butch Jones are basically the “glory years” of Tennessee football for the quarterbacks that UT is trying to land.
It’s been said for a long time that Tennessee recruits itself. That’s true to an extent — the Power T is still a recognizable logo. But it’s becoming less true with each year the Vols are removed from relevancy.
Throw in looming NCAA sanctions and you can see why landing an elite quarterback is going to be extremely tough for Heupel.
Fortunately for Tennessee, Heupel is viewed as a quarterback wizard who can get elite production from non-elite recruits.
Once the offense starts rolling on Rocky Top, recruiting should become easier for the Vols.
But until then, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Heupel and his staff.
Featured image via Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports