There are always going to be complaints.
That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned during my eight years writing about the Tennessee Vols on a daily basis.
Whether things are good or bad, there are always going to be folks who aren’t happy.
In the case of Josh Heupel, who was hired as the Vols’ head coach in January, the complaints I’ve heard center around his recruiting efforts.
While Heupel has effectively used the transfer portal to upgrade Tennessee’s 2021 roster, the results on the recruiting trail haven’t been great so far.
The Vols currently have only six commits to their 2022 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 45 in the nation and No. 12 in the SEC.
With only six months to go until the early signing period, it’s certainly concerning that Tennessee’s 2022 class isn’t among the top 25 in the nation. The Vols will need to recruit at a top 25 level (at the very least) to have a shot in the SEC East in the coming years.
I understand the concerns about Heupel’s recruiting. But I also think those concerns are misguided.
Heupel is facing challenges that no other coach in the SEC is facing. Right now, there isn’t an easier program in the conference to recruit against. One sentence can alter the way a recruit views Tennessee. And opposing programs are reportedly utilizing that sentence — which references the unknown looming sanctions facing the Volunteers — on a regular basis.
The Athletic’s David Ubben reported this week that multiple programs are recruiting negatively against Tennessee.
“Multiple schools are negatively recruiting against Tennessee, often embellishing the expected penalties that await the program after the NCAA investigation on campus concludes,” reported Ubben this week.
“Some players are being told it’ll be years before they can compete in bowl games,” added Ubben.
“Until the NCAA releases its sanctions, though, there’s little Tennessee can do to combat those suggestions on the recruiting trail. Players are forced to choose who they believe.”
There’s simply nothing Heupel can do about this. Other programs know that Heupel doesn’t know the answer to the questions that recruits have about the expected penalties. And those unanswered questions could be enough to convince a recruit to choose another program over Tennessee.
Until this investigation is complete and penalties are announced, Heupel is going to be at a disadvantage.
That’s why there’s no reason for complaints about Heupel’s current recruiting efforts. There’s absolutely nothing he can do to overcome the negative recruiting campaign against the Vols.
The only thing Tennessee can do right now is weather the storm and hope for the best when it’s over.
Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services