KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's football coaching staff is now on the defensive with a 2018 recruiting class that had been shaping up as one of the best in the Southeastern Conference and a potential top-10 group nationally.
In the wake of the Volunteers' 41-0 loss to Georgia on Saturday and widespread speculation regarding the job security of head coach Butch Jones, two of their commitments, including a highly touted Chattanooga player, have publicly reopened their recruitments.
Brendon Harris, a Baylor School safety and four-star prospect according to 247Sports.com, announced Tuesday that his recruitment "is now open to all schools."
Harris has been committed to Tennessee since May. His announcement followed a similar announcement made Monday by Milledgeville, Ga., wide receiver Jatavious Harris, who pledged to the Vols in April. The Harrises are not related.
Verbal commitments are nonbinding anyway, and both players could eventually sign with the Vols.
As it stands currently, Tennessee's group of 2018 commitments consists of 23 players. It is ranked sixth nationally by 247Sports and fifth nationally by Rivals.com.
Sources indicated Tuesday that a handful of other Tennessee pledges also now are considering other schools, though they have not made public announcements like the Harrises.
College football's first-ever early signing period is Dec. 20-22. The regular signing period starts Feb. 7.
Strong recruiting has been a hallmark of Jones' tenure at Tennessee, and recruiting was a focal point of Jones' two-minute rant directed at media last week that garnered national attention.
"Are we focused on Tennessee football from a recruiting standpoint, from all the positive things we've done, from all the positive things this football program brings to the community, this great fan base, or are we in the reality world of TV?" Jones said.
According to 247Sports, all of Tennessee's signing classes under Jones have finished in the top 25 nationally, highlighted by a 2015 class that was ranked fourth. The 2017 recruiting class ranked 17th nationally.
At least 10 commitments in the 2018 signing class publicly affirmed their pledges Monday through social media.
Quarterback Adrian Martinez from Fresno, Calif., said during an interview on "Football Futures" on Knoxville's Sports Radio WNML that he remains committed to Tennessee.
"Personally, I have all the confidence in the world in Butch," Martinez said in the interview.
Martinez, the seventh-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the recruiting class, added that he is trying to be a leader within the recruiting class and had been in contact with Jatavious Harris.
"I think really the only thing I can do is just say that I'm going to support them. That's what I told him, and anyone else who wants to go down that road, is that I'll support them through anything. I hope they come back to the University of Tennessee. I hope they stay with their commitment. I think we could really use them. If not, someone who will love to come to the University of Tennessee and who will make a difference with us (will come)."
Martinez was among a large group of recruits who attended Tennessee's loss to Georgia.
"Obviously, a 41-0 loss is not a great thing for recruiting or anything in general," Martinez said. "But I think a main message that can be sent from me is: Do you want to be part of a change? Do you want to go win an SEC championship? We could be the class that can come in and really make a difference and push for that. Go win an SEC championship; go win a national championship. Do you want to be a part of something special? I think there's not a greater place to do that, especially in front of such a great fan base. I think we have all the pieces necessary to do that."
Contact David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org.