Though second-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his staff have earned an A-grade for their recruiting efforts thus far, many top prospects are waiting to see whether or not the Volunteers translate their renewed energy and talent to results on the field.
One of those top prospects is 2016 defensive tackle Julian Rochester.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound rising junior out of McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Ga., is quickly becoming one of the most sought after defensive linemen in his class.
Rochester, rated by Scout as the No. 5 defensive tackle and No. 33 overall player in the 2016 class, said he already "has every (scholarship) offer (he) could ever want." His list of suitors are a who's-who of college football's elite.
Among many others, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have offered the four-star player. Out of that group, Rochester has visited Auburn, Clemson and Georgia already this summer. However, some of those have particularly stuck out to him early in the recruiting process.
"There are some ‘stand-out' schools. Auburn, FSU, Clemson — those have stuck out to me," Rochester told InsideTennessee. As to whether or not Tennessee can climb into his top group, the McEachern product said he has had little exposure to the Vols up to this point.
"I really haven't had a chance to go to Tennessee. I mean, (Tennessee's coaches) want me to come up (to Knoxville). I just haven't had the time."
Though a visit to Knoxville hasn't materialized yet, Rochester hinted a few times that if Tennessee showed on-field strides in 2014 he could see the Vols becoming a team that garners more and more consideration from him.
"I want see how the season goes this year. I don't wanna go be a part of a rebuilding process. I want to be a part (of a team) that's winning an SEC championship. I want to see what they do this season … (and) if they step their game up," Rochester said.
"I want see how (Lovejoy wide receiver) Preston Williams likes it. I'm going to talk to him and see how he likes it there," Rochester added, referencing the Vols' five-star commit for 2015.
One team that has clearly managed to impress the four-star tackle up to this point, however, is Auburn.
"Auburn, I mean, they're the first team to show me love and continue to show me love. They have a nice campus, they got all the remodeling done — new dorms and everything. Great football team, one of the best defensive line coaches in coach (Rodney) Gardner."
With two full years of high school football still ahead of him, Rochester has plenty of time to determine where he'll be at the next level. He doesn't have the exact school figured out yet, but he may have already settled on staying relatively close to home.
Two former Tennessee targets and current teammates of Rochester at McEachern High School — four-star running back Taj Griffin and four-star offensive tackle Chuma Edoga — elected to leave the confines of the Southeastern Conference and play out West, at Oregon and USC, respectively.
However, Rochester thinks football in the South is hard to beat despite his teammates' pledges to Pac-12 schools.
"I love SEC football. I don't know why they decided to go out West, we talk about that all the time — them deciding to go out West," Rochester said, referencing Griffin and Edoga's intentions to play away from the SEC footprint.
"It is what it is, but I'm an SEC guy… (the conference) is a minor league NFL and somewhere I can prepare myself for the NFL."
As of now, Rochester plans to make a decision as early as the beginning of his senior season.