The Commercial Appeal

New Vols coach Butch Jones happy.

- By Evan Woodbery

KNOXVILLE — First-year Tennessee football coach Butch Jones managed to hide the long hours on the road, lack of sleep, ice storms that played havoc with recruiting weekends and the gut-wrenching final decisions that went down to the final moment.

On Wednesday, he managed a smile.

Jones told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he was happy with his 21-man recruiting class on National Signing Day, even if it wasn’t as full as he might have hoped.

“There’s a process you go through with the first recruiting class,” Jones said. “A lot of times, you’re restricted by time. ... but I thought we made up a lot of ground.”

The Vols didn’t make up enough ground to break into the upper half of the SEC in recruiting rankings, nor was there enough time to lure five-star safety Vonn Bell, who signed with Ohio State.

But Jones said the class addressed important needs at several positions and would help lay the foundation.

“Do they fit in? Do they fit the criteria we’re looking for? I think we were able to attract high-level character guys,” Jones said.

Although the loss of Bell stung, the new staff did land three other targets who announced decisions Wednesday. Three-star defensive linemen Jaylen Miller and Malik Brown and four-star quarterbac­k Joshua Dobbs all chose UT. Dobbs had been committed to Arizona State for months, one of eight prospects that Jones flipped since his arrival Dec. 7, 2012. The final recruiting rankings could still fluctuate, but as of Wednesday night, the Vols were 25th nationally in the 247 Composite, which averages the rankings of every major recruiting service.

UT signees also included defensive end Jason Carr from White Station.


Mississipp­i State signed 20 players, including heralded defensive end Chris Jones. The Bulldogs landed Jones, who is from nearby Houston, Miss., after a hard-fought battle with rival Ole Miss. The 6-5, 250-pounder was a relative unknown a year ago but shot up the recruiting rankings with a stellar senior season.

Jones is a five-star recruit and the No. 2 defensive end recruit in the country according to

The Bulldogs also landed two four-star players in receiver Fred Ross (Tyler, Texas) and quarterbac­k Cord Sandberg (Bradenton, Fla.). Sandberg is also an outstandin­g baseball prospect. MSU signees also included Donald Gray Jr., a White Station athlete.


James Franklin has been promising that he’s just getting started at Vanderbilt. Now the coach has followed up the best season since 1915 by landing a recruiting class rated in the top 20 for the first time.

Vanderbilt signed 26 players, and a final commitment from linebacker Zach Cunningham helped push the Commodores to No. 19 in the ratings by Cunningham, a 6-1, 175-pound receiver from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., chose Vandy over Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida State and Stanford.

Vanderbilt ranked seventh among SEC teams. Still, Franklin and his coaches are bringing in the type of talent the Commodores need to compete in the SEC. “That’s going to be very important for us to do consistent­ly year in and year out,” Franklin said.

The Vandy class has a strong Memphis-area flavor, with four signees — defensive back Darrius Sims and wide receiver Gerald Perry of Whitehaven, Central wide receiver Latevius Rayford and Harding defensive end Mack Weaver.

Vanderbilt went 9- 4 last season, its best record since 1915.


New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema walked into the signing day news conference wearing a sweatsuit and flip flops, hardly looking like a coach worried about last-minute drama.

Twenty- two names were on the recruiting board to Bielema’s right, all having sent in their national letters of intent. It was the empty 23rd spot that held all the suspense. That spot was reserved for one of Bielema’s top targets, running back Alex Collins, who verbally committed to the Razorbacks on Monday night. The Florida standout canceled a news conference early Wednesday at which he was expected to sign with Arkansas, and he had not signed by late afternoon.

Bielema couldn’t comment directly on Collins, but he did say he hoped the recruiting class would “grow by one in the next 24 hours.”

The Arkansas class was ranked No. 26 by Rivals. com, 12th in the SEC. This article contains material from The Associated Press.

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