The Tennessee Vols reached bowl eligibility on Saturday night after cruising to a win against South Alabama.

Tennessee dismantled South Alabama 60-14 in front of 75,203 fans at Neyland Stadium.

The Vols are now 6-5 with one regular-season game remaining (against Vanderbilt). Josh Heupel has a chance to go 8-5 in his first season as UT’s head coach (if Tennessee wins their bowl game).

If the Volunteers get to eight wins this season, it would be the most wins by a first-year Tennessee head coach since Phillip Fulmer won nine games in 1993 (his first full season as UT’s head coach).

I think it’s safe to say that Heupel is exceeding everyone’s expectations in year one. The situation that Heupel inherited was bleak at best. Between the NCAA investigation that centered around recruiting violations and the mass exodus of players, it wasn’t a great situation that Heupel walked into.

But there’s still plenty of room for improvement — specifically in recruiting.

The Vols currently have the No. 31 ranked 2022 recruiting class in the nation.

One thing that is clear with one game remaining this season is that Tennessee needs to recruit at a higher level to compete with programs like Alabama and Georgia.

After the win on Saturday night, Heupel sent a direct message to recruits.

“We’re going to be the most aggressive team on the football field in all three phases of the game,” said Heupel. “I just believe that’s the way the game’s got to be played. Kids want to be a part of that. It’s going to help you in recruiting.”

The Vols’ offense gets a lot of the attention for playing at a frantic pace, but Tennessee’s defense has been equally aggressive this season.

“Our tackles for loss throughout the course of the season have been a huge part of our success,” explained Heupel. “On special teams, we’re going to do that as well. You guys have seen by the way that we’ve played on that side of the football as well.”

The Vols had 13 tackles for loss on Saturday night against South Alabama.

Heupel clearly wants recruits to know that Tennessee is going to be the most aggressive team on the field at all times. That shows that Heupel believes in his players. Plus, it’s an exciting brand of football. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

Getting elite players is the last ingredient in Tennessee’s recipe for success. If Heupel can start landing some top 10 or top 15 recruiting classes, the Volunteers are going to be a team to watch in the SEC title race in the coming years.

Featured image via Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK