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Vols' Jones recruiting up a storm

It's hard to imagine that first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones could have done any more to this point (without actually coaching in a game) to galvanize the Vols' fan base.

In the latest ESPN recruiting rankings, Tennessee has moved all the way up to No. 2 nationally and is tops among SEC teams. The new No. 1 team nationally is Florida State.

Remember the big question about Jones when he got the Tennessee job? Everybody wondered if he would be able to recruit well enough in the SEC, and even though we're still more than six months away from national signing day, I'd say he's gone a long way toward answering that question.

And let's face it. If he's going to get the Vols back into the SEC championship equation after four losing seasons in the past five years, it's going to take more than one stellar recruiting class to get there.

But the folks on Rocky Top love his start, as well they should.

Tennessee already has 24 commitments for the 2014 class, and 11 of those are ESPN 300 prospects -- which is the most in the country.

Jones has been able to reel in key in-state targets such as running back Jalen Hurd, safety Todd Kelly, Jr., and athlete Vic Wharton III. But he's also gone into the state of Georgia and scored with the likes of linebacker Kevin Mouhon, safety Cortez McDowell and running back Treyvon Paulk. Outside linebacker Dillon Bates, the son of former Vol and Dallas Cowboy Bill Bates, was also a big get out of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The Vols might not be done in Georgia, either. Coveted cornerback prospect D.J. Smith of Marietta, Ga., was on campus last Friday for a visit. Smith is also an ESPN 300 member.

Where Jones could really take this class to another level is if he closes with some muscle up front defensively and a few dynamic pass-rushers. That's where the Vols are still short right now.

Here's a look at where the SEC schools stack up nationally in ESPN's latest class rankings:

  • Tennessee -- No. 2

  • Alabama -- No. 4

  • Georgia -- No. 5

  • LSU -- No. 8

  • Texas A&M -- No. 9

  • Florida -- No. 12

  • Kentucky -- No. 13

  • Ole Miss -- No. 16

  • Auburn -- No. 17

  • Vanderbilt -- No. 25