Every time a major program loses a key recruit, Rivals.com takes a look at how big of a blow it is to the respective school, analyzing it from a local, regional and national level. To quantify the “sting” of each decommitment, we assign a score from 1 to 10, with one being no big deal and 10 being a catastrophic hit.
Tennessee lost its highest-ranked and longest-tenured commit on Tuesday morning when five-star Knoxville offensive lineman Cade Mays backed off his pledge to the Vols. The move, which seemed inconceivable at the start of the season, became inevitable once Tennessee started to struggle as the year moved along. With Butch Jones now firmly on the hot seat and Mays set to enroll early, things couldn’t be setting up any worse for the Vols in terms of reeling Mays back into the fold. So how big is the blow? We ask our experts to weigh in.
“Hard to overstate the loss for Tennessee, frankly. This is a guy who is a legacy and he’s been committed since July 2015. He’s at a position of need, and he's a five-star prospect. East Tennessee doesn’t produce these kind of players very often, and for Cade Mays to back off - it’s something we’ve known about, but for him to go public makes it all the more real for Tennesseee. We know the Vols are going to keep swinging here, but Clemson and Georgia are real factors and, again, this is a position that Tennessee can’t afford to have anyone decommit - much less your best player in your 2018 class.” – Jesse Simonton, Volquest.com
Sting Factor: 10
“Losing a commitment from Mays is as bad as it gets for the Vols on the recruiting trail. If there was one guy who could help hold the class together through all the turbulence of late, it was Mays. But his exit could be the start of even more major hits to the class over the next few weeks. Mays will be back on campus in Knoxville and he grew up bleeding orange, so I don’t think it’s out of the question that he can be won back, but with Butch Jones' status uncertain and a limited amount of time to woo him if a new coach is hired, it’s going to be an uphill climb.” – Woody Wommack, Southeast Recruiting Analyst, Rivals.com
Sting Factor: 10
“This is my second "10” for a Sting Factor in the short history of the feature (Brendan Radley-Hiles from Nebraska was my first), because Mays is an in-state kid who dreamed of playing for Tennessee and could play tackle or guard. Imagine Mays alongside Trey Smith on the right side of the line (or left) and you have to think they would have done great things. This decommitment speaks volumes about the current state of the Vols program.” – Mike Farrell, National Recruiting Director, Rivals.com
Sting Factor: 10
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
After recent trips to Clemson and Georgia, Mays is just getting started making the rounds to some of the nation’s top programs. This weekend he will officially visit Ohio State and follow that up with another trip to Clemson, and he also has officials to Notre Dame and Georgia on the schedule for December. The Vols will host Mays for the Vanderbilt game at the end of the month, but will that be Jones' last game as the head coach? And if it’s not, what pitch could he and the staff make to chance Mays' mind? Only time will tell, but time isn’t on Tennessee’s side - and they are now involved in a battle with some of the nation’s best recruiters.