In-state recruiting has been a hot topic around the Tennessee football program for quite some time.
In 2010, the Vols signed just two players from within the state: James Stone from Nashville and Jacques Smith from Ooltewah.
Without an abundance of local talent, however, some question whether Tennessee football can regain relevance on a national level.
But Derek Dooley has a different perspective.
While schools such as Alabama and LSU certainly have a recruiting advantage, he likes the unique situation at Tennessee.
“Certainly at both of those places, they’re gonna sign a lot more players from in-state,” Dooley said. “But I do think there’s a tremendous, unique perspective in recruiting that we have that none of the other institutions have. We border eight states at Tennessee. I really consider, you take about three to five hours around Knoxville, there is a tremendous amount of talent all the way around at every state.”
According to Dooley, a deficiency of in-state talent doesn’t necessarily mean Tennessee lacks a strong local recruiting base.
“So even though a lot of people say we don’t have a great number of recruiting base, I don’t really see it that way,” Dooley said. “I mean, we can drive three hours down the road and there’s a multitude of players.”
Recruiting out of state players presents its own set of difficulties. But fortunately, Tennessee’s geographical advantages help tremendously.
“Does it create challenges that it’s not your home state?. Of course, it does,” Dooley acknowledged. “But there’s also a special uniqueness that Tennessee has because of that.”
No matter where they grew up, the loyalty exhibited by former players is a prime example of what makes Tennessee so special. Once their paths cross through Knoxville, many consider it home.
“I’ve always, from the outside, admired the passion of the former players at Tennessee,” Dooley said. “It’s incredible how much they love the place, how they come back. I don’t think there’s very many programs out there that have former players do that. And I think it’s because of our geographic location that we’re able to pull players from so many different places. That when they come to Tennessee, they truly leave home, they unpack their bags, they form new relationships, form special bonds that last forever. So I consider it a real strength.”