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Monday, October 7, 2013
Despite loss, Vols impress recruits

By Derek Tyson

Tennessee hosted several visitors for its hard-fought 34-31 overtime loss to Georgia on Saturday. The Vols fell to 3-3 on the season and have a tough stretch of games against ranked opponents South Carolina, at Alabama and at Missouri, then face 4-1 Auburn.

The Vols have the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the country, but will the mounting losses and tough stretch of games affect Tennessee's recruiting momentum?

ESPN 300 linebacker Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./South Plainfield) doesn't seem to think so. The No. 3-ranked inside linebacker in the country was on an official visit to Tennessee this weekend. He said most recruits understand that this is a rebuilding year, and he doesn't pay too much attention to the wins and losses for Tennessee.

"A loss doesn't really define a team," Garrett said, "I think it's more about the way the guys play while they are losing -- that's a factor for me. I want to see if they just give up or do they keep fighting because that shows how much they believe in their coaches and the system. Obviously Tennessee fought hard in the Georgia game but came up a little short.

"The game was insane, though. They have a great fan base and it was just a great game."

— Clifton Garrett CG3 (@CG340) October 6, 2013
Braxton Berrios (Raliegh, N.C./Leesville Rd.), a four-star wide receiver who will make his decision on Oct. 12 echoed Garrett's thoughts on the game and said he tries to keep wins and losses in perspective .

"It doesn't affect me at all," Berrios said. "It's no secret that this is a rebuilding phase of the program. They fought until the end against one of the premier teams in the country. That's what you look for in a program.

"It was pretty electric in there, one of the best atmosphere's I've seen."

Despite not visiting Tennessee this past weekend, three-star defensive tackle Cory Thomas (McCalla, Ala./McAdory) named Tennessee his leader on Twitter Sunday morning.

Did I tell yal Tennessee is now my #1 skool?

— *"#34 From Mcadory"* (@bigcory34) October 6, 2013

Thomas, much like Garrett and Berrios, feels like Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is trying to get the right guys in place to run his system. Once he does, Thomas feels the Vols have a chance to be special.

"I feel like once Coach Butch starts recruiting his guys and [when he] gets a batch in there that he's recruited, over the next few years Tennessee is going to do some big things," he said.

There's no question it isn't much fun to endure growing pains -- especially at a historic program like Tennessee. Even Nick Saban had to deal with rebuilding in Tuscaloosa. Alabama went 7-6 in Saban's first year, yet finished with the No. 3 recruiting class in the country which included stars Julio Jones, Marcel Dareus, Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Mark Ingram and Barrett Jones.

Jones has the Vols on the right path in recruiting, and despite losing a commitment on Sunday from junior college wide receiver Eric Lauderdale (Fayetville, Ga./Saddleback College), Tennessee appears to have kept its recruiting momentum.