During his opening statements as Tennessee's head coach, Josh Heupel detailed how important recruiting was to his new program. Heupel's reputation on the recruiting trail was one of the questions that many Tennessee fans raised about his hire.
Make no mistake about it; Josh Heupel is not a lazy recruiter. Since arriving in Knoxville, Heupel has been one of the most active head coaches in the country regarding recruiting. During his SEC Network appearance at SEC Media Days, the Tennessee head coach detailed his process on the trail.
"You have to start inside out," said Heupel. "That's our state first and foremost. We've got to do a great job of targeting, evaluating and getting the kids in-state to come play at Tennessee. The power of Name, Image and Likeness, the power of the experience for four years (at Tennessee) has a chance to change their life forever. And that's true for guys in-state and out of state. From there, you work out. For us, we have to continue to push out in our footprint, and we have coaches that have deep ties in the south. I think six of our coaches have ties or have coached in this league. They understand the footprint—everything east of the Mississippi we're basically recruiting. We have guys that have ties to the DMV, into the Detroit area. Those give us an ability to outreach and increase the number of guys that we're able to go recruit."
Heupel's staff has experienced moderate success on the trail so far, almost exceeding expectations because of the looming NCAA sanctions. One of the reasons they have been able to gain traction is the transparent message from Tennessee's head coach.
"This is one of the iconic programs in all of college sports," said Heupel about his message to recruits. "Anything that has been done in college football can be done, has been done and will be done again (at Tennessee). We're in a race against ourselves to be as good as we can as fast as we can. And every opportunity that you want, inside the game and outside the game, is afforded to you at the University of Tennessee."
Tennessee currently has 11 players committed in the 2022 recruiting class, with several more top targets set to make decisions in the coming week. Determining how many prospects Tennessee can take in the 2022 class has been tricky, as the Vols added several transfers and could self-impose a scholarship reduction, thus cutting down the number of players that they can take from the prep ranks.
Still, Heupel and Co. have been meticulous evaluators, and they are finding the right fit for their program on and off the field in this recruiting cycle.