KNOXVILLE – The Vols were back on the practice field Thursday morning for their third day of spring practice, but it was what happened off the field that marks one of the biggest occasions in the coach Butch Jones’ short tenure at Tennessee.
Elite five-star running back Jalen Hurd of Hendersonville, Tenn., pledged to the Vols on Tuesday morning via Twitter, giving the Vols perhaps their biggest recruiting pickup in years.
“I have officially committed to play football at The University of Tennessee. #VFL #RiseToTheTop,” Hurd tweeted on Monday.
After largely missing out at running back in the 2012 and 2013 classes, running back became a massive priority in the 2014 class. Hurd, an in-state prospect rated by some recruiting services as one of the top players at any position in the
nation, emerged as one of UT’s top targets for this class.
Despite battling many of the elite programs in the nation such as Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Georgia and Florida State for his services, Hurd ended the process early, helping the Vols build even more momentum in the 2014 class.
Through three years at Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., Hurd has 374 carries for 5,422 yards and 69 rushing touchdowns.
“He is a tall, straight-line runner with a lengthy, muscular frame and very good top-end speed,” ESPN.com wrote of the 6-5, 225-pound back. “When he does hit a north/south seam, he can be very dangerous with his acceleration and shiftiness. He can speed cut in the open field and has some big play speed and elusiveness.”
Hurd becomes the first five-star running back to commit to the Vols since Bryce Brown pledged to former coach Lane Kiffin in the 2010 class. Prior to that, a five-star back hadn’t committed to UT since Chattanooga-native Gerald Riggs Jr., who signed with the Vols in 2004.
Hurd becomes the fifth commitment in UT’s 2014 class and the fourth to pledge in the last week.
ESPN.com: ESPN300 Watch List
Rivals.com: 4-star, 15th best player in the nation
Scout.com: 4-star; 7th best player in the nation
247Sports.com: 5-star, 10th best player in the nation, 2nd best RB in the nation
247Sports.com Composite: 5-star, 14th best player in the nation, 3rd best RB in the nation
How he fits: Only four scholarship backs – Marlin Lane, Alden Hill, Tom Smith and Jabo Lee – are projected to be on the roster in 2014 when Hurd arrives. Only Lane has significant experience at this point. Hurd and Lane could split reps in 2014 with Hurd taking over in 2015 as the featured back.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga