Kaizen: Continuous Improvement

Nothing is ever perfect, and despite a helluva day for Coach Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols on Wednesday there are certain things that you know a coach as maniacally focused on recruiting as he is will look to improve.  Along with perhaps upgrading the staff from a recruiting perspective, from this vantage point one thing Tennessee should look at is the amount of official visits used in the spring and summer.  With the advent of the Early Signing Period in the class of 2018, using official visits earlier and earlier in the cycle has become more commonplace.  And that makes sense – schools are looking to lock down their top targets early, some kids want to finish the recruiting process early, and in particular spring games and thematic weekends (cookouts, paint ball, pool parties, etc) during the summer are showcase weekends to host official visitors.  That said, when looking at who Tennessee has brought in for official visits during the spring and summer for the classes of 2019 and 2020 (Pruitt’s two opportunities) those OV weekends have been, objectively speaking, failures.  Take a look below:

Class of 2019

April 18th (Orange and White Game)

Wanya Morris (signed with Tennessee)

Khris Bogle (signed with Florida)

Bryce Beinhart (signed with Nebraska)

Jalen Curry (signed with Arizona)

April 27th

Anthony Bradford (signed with LSU)

June 1st

Warren Burrell (signed with Tennessee)

June 8th

Trezeman Marshall (signed with UGA)

Mike Morris (signed with Michigan)

So, for the class of 2019, Tennessee brought eight prospects in for OVs during the spring and summer and signed two of them, a 25% hit rate.  Not only that, but the Vols were deep in the recruitments for both Bogle and Marshall until the bitter end, but both took very late OVs to the schools they respectively signed with whereas Tennessee had used its OV over a half year before they each signed.

Class of 2020

April 12th (Orange & White Game)

Dominic Bailey (signed with Tennessee)

Deontae Craig (signed with Iowa)

EJ Williams (signed with Clemson)

Kitan Crawford (signed with Texas)

Justin Rogers (signed with Kentucky)

Cooper Mays (signed with Tennessee)

June 7th

Mordecai McDaniel (Committed to UT in August but flipped to UF)

Haynes King (signed with Texas A&M)

June 14th (Pool Party)

James Robinson (signed with Tennessee)

Xavier Hill (signed with LSU)

Darrion Henry (signed with OSU)

Ty Jordan (signed with Utah)

Kourt Williams (signed with OSU)

June 21st

Blayne Toll (signed with Arkansas)

Rakim Jarrett (signed with Maryland after flipping from LSU)

Caziah Holmes (signed with PSU)

Chris Morris (signed with Texas A&M)

Richie Leonard (signed with UF)

After batting 25% (2/8) in 2019 on spring/summer official visits, Tennessee did even worse in 2020 signing three of the eighteen official visitors for a 17% hit rate.  And one of those commitments (Bailey) was already committed when he took his OV to Tennessee, and another (Mays) was a very heavy lean when he took his OV.  That’s…not good.  Now, in both years Tennessee chose not to heavily pursue some of these prospects and two other caveats to this exercise are 1) sometimes a prospect says I want to take my OV now and you have no choices so you take your shot and hope for the best (e.g., EJ Williams), and 2) some of the above were likely always going to the schools they ended up with  (e.g., Darrion Henry).  But even considering all of that, this strategy objectively has not worked for Pruitt and Tennessee.

Therefore, this should be addressed starting with the class of 2021 cycle.  The Orange and White Game weekend is a fantastic weekend to have prospects see Knoxville, Tennessee’s campus, and Vol Nation in all its glory.  And themed weekends during the summer are also great ways to show players the program and the campus while also showing them a different side of Tennessee’s coaching staff.  All great stuff, and all opportunities to build out a bigtime class.  But doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, and when that thing is proven to not work it also is counterproductive.  What’s been proven to work for Tennessee is inseason OVs, where the Vol Walk and the Vol Navy and 102,45mf’in5 show kids what Tennessee football is all about.  And barring that, Tennessee has done well with OVs between the end of the season and the start of the ESP, when once again everything that is great about Tennessee’s program can be showcased.  So along with potentially a better recruiting staff (TBD), another year for Pruitt and his core staff to have built relationships and gotten 2021 kids on campus, and an upward trend for the program not seen since the end of the 2015 season (which proved to be a bit of a mirage), perhaps a change in official visit strategy will also help to sign what should be Pruitt’s best class in his tenure as the Head Coach at Tennessee.

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