Team rankings are exciting, but can also be deceiving. The better benchmark is SB Nation’s blue chip ratio: if you want to be in the national championship conversation, at least half of your signees need to be four-or-five star players.
Phillip Fulmer hired Jeremy Pruitt over easier and safer choices because he wanted to be in the national championship conversation. While the Vols were making slow but noticeable progress on the field in his first year, his first full recruiting class is already on the right side of the ratio.
With the additions of Darnell Wright and Henry To’oto’o, 13 of Tennessee’s 23 signees are blue chip prospects in the 247 Composite. That’s 56.5%. And that’s the best Tennessee has done in blue chip ratio in a long, long time.
Here’s the post-Fulmer era in blue chip ratio:
It gets a little less reliable in tracking the further you go back, but 2019 appears to be Tennessee’s best performance in blue chip ratio since Fulmer’s 2005 class (17 of 26 in Rivals, which would certainly qualify at 65.4%).
You can see where Butch Jones was putting the pieces together to be in the conversation in 2014 and 2015, both times without much on-field success to stand on yet, to his credit. But it’s also true those 2014 and 2015 classes were unusually high on in-state and legacy prospects. This year’s class includes four-star legacy Jackson Lampley and four-star RB Eric Gray from Memphis. But the other 11 blue chip prospects are from Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and California.
Jones never turned those recruiting classes into more than 9-4 seasons, and it remains to be seen if Pruitt can come closer to the championship conversation. But this class is worth more praise than a generic, “12th in the nation/not bad for a 5-7 team.” If what we saw finalized today becomes the norm, the Vols will have one of the most important pieces to the championship puzzle.