By MURPHY FAIR
The Volunteer State is rapidly becoming a favorite destination for college football recruiters. Once over-looked by college coaches, especially those instate institutions that compete in the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee is considered somewhat of a hot spot for future college football stars.
Trying to identify the reason for the sudden change of events is not an easy task. The influence of players and coaches within the Tennessee Titans organization has certainly impacted the midstate in particular. And the fact that UT's Butch Jones and Vandy's James Franklin have made in-state recruiting a priority has put somewhat of a national focus on our state. But there are certainly other reasons.
Whatever the reasons, I think it's about time that college football coaches outside our borders are finally giving high school football players in Tennessee the attention they deserve.
Two prime examples of such high profile players are wide receivers Josh Malone of Station Camp and Ravenwood's Van Jefferson. Considered by more than one rating service as one of the top wide receiver in America, Malone has more than 40 offers on the table from schools including Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio State, Florida State and Clemson. He's also been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Jefferson, son of Titans receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, may be the country's top ranked receiver next year. The talented pass catcher has helped Ravenwood improve from a 1-9 cellar dweller in District 11-AAA last year to a 9-1 district champion this year. He's been offered scholarships from Auburn, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. He'll likely be called upon to play in one of the nation's premier post-season bowl games next year.
But the list of in-state players who are drawing national attention is a long one. Members of the Class of 2014 and their college destinations includes Rashaan Gaulden and Vic Wharton of Independence, both Tennessee bound, M.B.A.'s Alex Bars (Notre Dame) and Emmanuel Smith of Oakland (Vanderbilt), just to name a few.
The sudden interest in local talent will be strong again next year. The Class of 2015 will likely be stronger than the 2014 group.
Some of the players on that list include lineman Jack Jones of Oakland (Tennessee), WR/DB C. J. Sanders (son of former Titan Chris Sanders) of Brentwood Academy (six major offers including an unofficial offer from Stanford when he was a freshman), Blackman quarterback Jajuan Jennings (more than a dozen offers including seven from the Southeastern Conference), Ensworth defensive back Rico McGraw (offers from Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) and Hillsboro defensive end Kyle Phillips (Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Clemson, Duke, Virginia). Phillips is the son of TSU athletic director Teresa Phillips.
Whatever the reason for the sudden surge of Tennessee high school football onto the national stage, it's refreshing to see recruiters from places like Stanford, Ohio State, Florida State and other prominent programs visiting our great state of Tennessee.
The talent is here.
Murphy Fair has published Tennessee High School Football for 25 years. His statewide syndicated radio show (Murphy’s Matchups) can be heard locally Fridays just before kickoff on WBRY.).