KNOXVILLE – Some will remember coach Butch Jones’ first recruiting class at Tennessee for who he didn’t sign.
Jones would rather dwell on the 21 who did.
Despite missing out on coveted five-star defensive back Vonn Bell, a Chattanooga-area native, Jones thinks the 21 newest Vols will lay a foundation for his tenure at Tennessee.
“It’s a class that I think will represent the University of Tennessee especially well on and off the field,” Jones said in his post-signing day press conference held at Neyland Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. “Very proud of these individuals – all 21 – for showing their loyalty, their belief in our football program, but also respecting the values and traditions of this football program.”
Letters of intent began rolling in to UT’s fax machine around 8:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning as all 18 players who were committed to the Vols stuck with their pledge.
The first big break came when quarterback Joshua Dobbs, a longtime Arizona commitment, decided to sign with UT instead at approximately 9:30 a.m. ET.
“Our offense fits his skill set,” Jones said of the 6-3, 190-pound signal caller out of Alpharetta, Ga. “You know, it's the relationship business, building relationships with his mother, his father. We went in and did a home visit with him, and it was basically make or break. … So the home visit went exceptionally well and we were able to bring him on campus.”
Dobbs will join three-star Riley Ferguson of Matthews, N.C., as the two quarterbacks in this class. Jones isn’t promising anybody a starting job or even playing time at this point. Just a chance to earn it.
“I tell all of the individuals that I want them coming in with the mentality that they are going to play,” Jones said. “I think that is extremely healthy.
“To get two Elite-11 quarterbacks – I'm ecstatic. You look at the unusual situation at Tennessee where we only have two quarterbacks on scholarship; I've never heard of that. I think that alone was an attractive situation.”
Jones was also noticeably excited about his group of wide receivers signees – Ryan Jenkins, MarQuez North, Josh Smith and Paul Harris. That group will be charged with the task of replacing nearly 90 percent of UT’s yards from receivers from 2012.
North, a consensus four-star recruit, pledged to the Vols a week before signing day and has perhaps the most upside of the quartet of signees.
“I’m very excited about the addition of MarQuez,” wide receiver coach Zach Azzanni said. “He has unlimited potential. He brings everything you are looking for physically. He is a high character person who wants to be great.”
More to come?: With six open spots remaining in the class, Jones didn’t confirm or deny any plans to add more players, but did leave the door open to that possibility.
“It will be an ongoing process,” he said. “If we can find a prospective student-athlete that fits our profile of what we want, we will recruit him."
Jones went on to identify the offensive and defensive lines as two areas that could be potentially added to. He said there can be a temptation to add quantity to a first signing class to build depth, but he also doesn’t want to sacrifice scholarships that might be needed down the road.
“We were extremely selective in this process,” Jones said. “This was our third time [making a coaching transition] … we had a formula for the type of player we needed to attract here in Knoxville.”
Keeping Carr was a fight to the finish: Four-star defensive end Jason Carr was the highest-ranked defensive player to ink with the Vols, but keeping the longtime UT commitment in the fold was harder than it might have seemed from the outside.
"I tell you what, I love Jason Carr,” Jones said. “He came here and had a great official visit, and then everyone in the SEC came after him. He even had schools camping out at his high schools to talk to him, all day."
Jones hinted that there were some nervous moments in the final week, but ultimately the 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive end stuck with his original commitment on Wednesday.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga