The Tennessee Volunteers haven't been competitive in the SEC East since the 2007 season, when they finished in a tie for the division crown. Since then, coaching instability and massive roster turnover have left Tennessee scrambling to regain its footing and once again compete with Florida, Georgia, and now South Carolina for the division.
There's no quicker way out of a hole in college football than recruiting well. If Saturday's Nike Football Training Camp is any indication, the Vols and new head coach Butch Jones are well on their way to putting together a recruiting class that will help them gain ground on the teams currently atop the SEC East. Two of Jones' highest profile commitments, running back Jalen Hurd and defensive end Joe Henderson, shined in work at their respective positions and were recognized for their performances.
Henderson is an extremely impressive pass rusher. At 6'4, 230 pounds, Henderson is quick off the snap, used his hands well to keep offensive linemen off him, and showed a variety of pass-rushing moves in drills against some of the camp's best offensive linemen. Henderson is a prototypical SEC defensive lineman that is only scratching the surface physically. With his frame and long arms, he'll easily be able to put on more muscle without sacrificing quickness off the edge.
Hurd, on the other hand, is not your typical running back. The four-star stands 6'3, 230 and has long arms and at first glance looks like a big receiver. But looks shouldn't deceive. Hurd is agile for his size and runs well both on the edges and inside. Playing in the SEC, Hurd is going to be just what the doctor ordered for a Tennessee offense that far too often abandoned the run altogether. Hurd is a capable receiver as well, meaning he can be the every-down back the Volunteers have missed in recent years.
Both Hurd and Henderson were recognized after the Nike Football Training Camp as the outstanding performers at their respective positions. This was especially meaningful for Henderson, who was competing against the nation's consensus best defensive player in Da'Shawn Hand.
"I wasn't trying to compete against him necessarily, but it felt good to be recognized with a player like him out here," Henderson said of the honor.
After the camp, in speaking with both players, each praised Butch Jones' energy and enthusiasm for the program. Henderson said the biggest factor in choosing Tennessee was his existing relationship with Jones from his time as head coach at Cincinnati. Henderson said that as soon as Jones took the Tennessee job that he would visit Tennessee and once he arrived on campus it gave him a "home feeling" that told him it was the place for him.
Hurd also praised not only Jones, but the entire Volunteers' staff for creating more of family atmosphere than he said he felt on other campuses.
"They all just make it feel like you're one big family. Like, they care about you as a person and not just a football player," he said.
With the summer ahead of them, both players said they speak to each other and the other prospects currently committed to Tennessee pretty regularly. Both said they hoped to work together to help recruit even more players to a Tennessee class that is already in the top five according to the major recruiting services.