Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel received a bit of bad press just before National Signing Day, thanks to a story from AL.com.
Ben Thomas reported earlier this week that Tennessee pulled a scholarship offer from three-star wide receiver Roc Taylor, who had been committed to the Vols since last April, just before National Signing Day.
Taylor’s high school coach called the move “bush-league” and said Tennessee would never be allowed to recruit at his school again (Taylor attends Oxford in Alababam).
The optics of this are obviously bad, but only because of the comments from Taylor’s coach. The reality is that this stuff happens at most programs nearly every recruiting cycle.
Previous UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt didn’t sign Taylor in December and he probably wouldn’t have signed him this week, either. There were concerns about whether or not Taylor would qualify. And at this point, Tennessee can’t afford to lose a scholarship by taking a recruit who may not end up even playing (Taylor also didn’t fit Heupel’s scheme).
It’s basically a non-story.
The focus on Heupel and recruiting this week should be on the work he’s putting in with in-state recruits.
Everyone knows that the 2022 in-state recruiting class is extremely important. It’s one of the most talented in-state classes ever.
And Heupel is already working the phones trying to build a relationship with those kids.
After Heupel was introduced as Tennessee’s head coach, he quickly called 2022 four-star quarterback Ty Simpson, a Martin, TN native who is rated as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation (247Sports composite).
Calling Simpson was a no-brainer — he’s the most important player in the 2022 class.
But that’s not the only in-state player that Heupel has been calling this week.
Rivals reported on Thursday that Heupel called four-star offensive tackle Fisher Anderson (the No. 5 2022 player in Tennessee) on his first day on the job.
“It was a late call and for only a few minutes, but it was his first day, so I know it was busy,” said Anderson to Rivals. “I was surprised he still wanted to talk to me the first day on the job. It surprised me in a good way.”
“He made it seem like he really wants to start with in-state kids and work his way out,” added Anderson.
Anderson, who is from Franklin, TN, also noted that Heupel came across as “very personable”.
Developing strong relationships within the state of Tennessee — for the 2022 class and beyond — is extremely important to Heupel’s future success. Part of the reason the Vols have struggled in recent years is because elite players who should’ve ended up at Tennessee (like Trevor Lawrence, Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, etc) have gone to other programs.
It sounds like Heupel’s relationship with in-state kids is off to a great start. That’s the most important thing he could’ve done in his first week on the job.
Heupel has a long way to go to turn Tennessee around. And there will be failures. But so far, he’s batting .1000 as the Vols’ head coach.
Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports